Thursday, September 17, 2009
A Back-log of Album Reviews Pt. 1
These Four Walls
We Were Promised Jetpacks
Few can write such emotional and stirring songs as the Irish. WWPJP (not What Would Peter Jackson Produce) sounds like Glasvegas, though with a good dose of American emo influences, but don’t let that scare you away. This is a dark album, with droning tones like the last few Walkmen albums. Best at its quieter moments, when its holding back its explosive potential. Like the name of the band suggests, the album is full of songs about alienation, loss, pain, and lonliness. The repetition of some lyrics, and when the band goes full throttle (perhaps what a more mellow, polished Flogging Molly would sound like), ifeels a bit out of place. The rythmn section, reminiscent of Interpol , really works here in creating a sound space which accompanies the whole mood of the album. On first listen, it would be quite easy to dismiss this as “it’s been done,” but on subsequent listens, the small touches, which can be easily missed, especially the interplay between guitars, suggest more is there. It’s a transfixing album, and once you’re into it, it’s hard to stop.
The blogosphere’s most talked about band of the year. That is probably your first danger sign right there,. Not that over-hyped albums are necessarily bad, but most are quite forgettable, or the hype kills any possible appreciation for the record. XX is relatively minimalist, using only guitar, drums and bass. It’s a male/female duo who sing to/at each other, which I’m not sure works for me, in fact the woman is the far better and interesting vocalist, adding elements of soul to this record, which it seems would have been far stronger if it would have gone with its impulses; a sort of polished neo-soul or trip-hop without the trip or the hop, instead of bowing to indie-tendencies. The lyrics, which are suddenly given priority in sparse setting, don’t really have the weight, and are a bit too literal for me.
Most bands can sound like they’re paying homage to a prior musical era. But very few can be mistaken as actual products from that era (The Sights and ? come to mind) and The Horrors are one of those bands I had to double check to make sure they weren’t around in the early 80’s in Manchester. Turns out his was a band that a few years back had less than 15-minutes of fame as a shock-horror band, not its music. I don’t know what’s changed, but this is truly an astounding album. On the surface they sound like the second coming of the Fall, but have their own distinct atmosphere of post-shoegaze fuzz guitars, rotating Butthole Surfer style effects and Joy Division-esque keyboard distortions (the background of I Only Think of You almost sounds lifted from Closer), and yet they somehow manage to craft songs which are anthemic and recognizable. In a way, a better description would be that this is Pulp thrown through a tube-rectifier listened to on some sort of bad sedative.
In fact, the sonic-scenery is so dense that the lyrics easily get lost. Their delivery, somewhere between The Fall and Morissey, is actually surprisingly tender, in fact almost sentimental. This is a harrowing album but one you’ll listen to over and over again.
Take your pick: The Circulitary System playing TV On the Radio or if The Fleet Foxes were invaded by members of The Shins, maybe Elf Power trying to sound like a George Harrison album produced by Yoko… this is very much an album that is a product of its time. They whistle, sing together, have tambourine, even have a distinct Beach Boys influence, yet there’s something about this band that I really like. While the album sounds unwieldy, there is a attention to detail that shows craftsmanship above that of their peers. They take the meta-lo-fi aesthetic to a new level, borrowing from all over the place; there’s even a phrase I’m sure came from Phil Specter’s Christmas album. This is quite a brilliant wrinkle, or inversion, in the Freak Folk scene, in that this isn’t folk music sung in various anachronistic or dis-contextualized settings, or even an aesthetic of chance, but rather uses the bits and pieces of popular and contemporary music as the folk language, rather than using the folk language to try and create contemporary music, and purposefully creating what sounds like chance. The near manic shifts in tone inside each song work incredibly well, pieces and themes finding themselves all over the place and then coming together at brilliant moments, it also provides a nice alternative to many similar bands whose songs are quite circular. In fact, while thirty other bands are trying to sound like Brian Wilson, this is one of the few that actually succeeds in fragmenting songs like he did. Somehow, it seems that I, a person who by all right should be the first to dismiss this album, am the only person who loves this album.