Archive | October, 2018

Interpol ‘Marauder’ – Review

30 Oct

If the strokes were the perfect embodiment of New York City’s stylish, debauched nightlife, then Interpol symbolised the walk home alone in the early hours. The cold chill in the air, the reflections of neon signs in puddles, steely skyscrapers – a lonely yet glamorous existence. But it’s been a while since Interpol encapsulated this melancholic romance. Recent albums, ‘Interpol’ and ‘El Pintor’ felt like they were constructed in a dark bunker, miles below NYC’s surface. Crushing misery was always part of the bargain, but never from so close a range, and never in such dull terms.

Order is restored in surprising ways on ‘Marauder’ where dark themes are explored with unexpected attitude and sharp humour. In contrast to their classic debut, where riffs and melodies jutted out at right angles, there is a machine gun fire dynamism to everything on ‘Marauder’. Even the slow songs have a sharpness. The opening trio, ‘If You Really Love Nothing’, ‘The Rover’ and ‘Complications’ are almost Ramonic in their forward momentum – if not quite their melodic ingenuity.

But to the disservice of his newly energised band, Paul Banks continues to drown his songs in faux-profundity. occasionally he aims clumsily at such odd targets that you wonder if he ever had the insight that brooding classics like ‘Untitled’ and ‘Obstacle 1’ suggested. ‘If you really love nothing, on what future do we build illusions?’ He mysteriously muses on the opening track. It’s nowhere near as smart as Banks thinks it is. And look, if you have any desire to know what he means by ‘prostrated faded’ then he’s written paragraphs on the subject over at Genius.com. Knock yourself out. Needless to say, he’s very preoccupied with shadowy ‘cult guys’ and ‘pseudo spiritualism’.

But that’s not the crux of ‘Marauder’. In fact, in the correct setting, some of these lyrics roar to life – once Bank’s distinctive baritone wraps menacingly around them. At points, such is his conviction, you become almost convinced that he’s a deceptive genius. It helps immensely that his band are behind him, urging him forward. Legendary producer Dave Friedman has captured Interpol’s live sound straight to tape, and the record gains something vital as a result. Scrappy guitar lines, distortion, dials turned up to ten and given a heated mix – it creates a frazzling sound alright. But after the funeral atmosphere of their previous three albums, the intensity and passion is a welcome surprise. That the album doesn’t manage to sustain that intensity for 45 minutes, is not so much of a surprise. The back half is podgy and forgettable. Nonetheless, ‘Marauder’ should be celebrated as more than the successful Comeback it is – it’s one of the best things Interpol have ever done. Period.

7/10

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Review Round-up

28 Oct

Bodega ‘Endless Scroll’

Bodega are exactly what you want from a post punk band. They make tense, wiry songs that are executed with minimal fuss, and explore dark themes with an abundance of wit and just the right amount of sophistication. Across fourteen razor sharp songs the band jab at familiar targets – the new world, the internet, consumerism, culture snobs – and even find success when they trade the cynicism for a more personal analysis on Jack From Titanic; a wry, self deprecating ode to Titanic’s heroic lead.

The album was recorded by Austin Brown, and once you know this it’s difficult not to hear his influence, particularly in the intonation and stresses of the frontman’s deadpan vocals. But Bodega are more stylisticly slick than Parquet Courts, and this is certainly a more one dimensional album than any that band have put out – one that occasionally feels repetitive and short on ambition. But in stretches ‘Endless Scroll’ is one of the smarter, and more enjoyable, social commentaries you’re likely to hear in 2018.

7.5/10

Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears

Let’s Eat Grandma have made a modern album built on the ruins of cannon culture. As the opener – the drawling and menacing ‘Whitewater’ – slithers to an end, you get the strong impression that the instrumental is what tripping Deadheads might have imagined pop music to sound like in the 21st century. At its best, ‘I’m all Ears’ more than lives up to this promise. It’s a youthful, optimistic vision of what pop can achieve when it’s made by Goths raised on Spice Girls. The hyperactive hooks on ‘Hot Pink’ were provided by Sophie and Farsi Baldwin – an odd combination who nonetheless find the balance of sweet and sour, and unleash Let’s Eat Grandma’s poptimist sensibilities. Even better than the hyperactive ‘Hot Pink’ are the wild, extended ‘Cool and Collected’ and ‘Donnie Darko’ which sharply explore themes of dependency and rejection. Best of all is the stripped back piano ballad ‘Ava’ which reflects on a lonely friend who lost touch years before – a simple and moving evocation that contrasts with the more ambitious and eclectic numbers.

8.5/10

Father John Misty ‘God’s Favourite Customer’

Father John Misty’s ‘Pure Comedy’ was one of the most self indulgent acts of artistic hubris since the fall of Britpop. His trademark irony soured in to sarcasm and knives once sharpened for self diagnosis pointed outwards, towards easy targets. Musically, everything felt simultaneously overthought and under worked. Vague ideas stretched across 70 minutes of tedious piano noodling, conveying an overwhelmingly cynical and meloncholic sneer in the face of humanity. ‘God’s Favourite Customer’ feels like an earnest attempt to distill ‘Pure Comedy’s general and self loathing in to something more palatable. It’s about half the length for starters, and even the longest song would be one of the shortest on ‘Pure Comedy’. whilst Misty still sticks to a pretty repetitive, melancholic formula, there is less to actively loathe on this album, and quite a bit to enjoy. Misty’s voice, gorgeous even in the most tedious moments, is complimented by rich, warm arrangements. In ‘Please Don’t Die’ and ‘Disapointing Diamonds are the Rarest’ he has found some of his pretties melodies in years. Not quite a return to the form of ‘I Love You Honeybear’ but a nice record that goes some way to redeeming the artist.

6.5/10

 

Joyce Manor ‘A Million Dollers To Kill Me’ – Review

20 Oct

Joyce Manor have spent much of the past decade searching for the exact point where emo meets Indie and pop-punk. Having discovered that point, and upon naming it ‘Cody’, the band now seek out unexplored terrain for new adventures. And so they arrive at ‘A Million Dollers to Kill Me’, their most surprising left turn to date.

At its opening nothing appears to be any different. First track ‘Fighting Kangaroos’ features recognisably fractured singing, propulsive, power house drumming and a day glo melody. But it goes on for longer than Joyce Manor fans have become accustomed to. It goes on past the two minute mark. It goes on past the second chorus. Then you notice the sheen of the guitars and the subtle harmonies underpinning Barry Johnson’s more carefully considered tone. This is definitely something new. Then ‘Fighting Kangaroos’ bursts in to ‘Think I’m Still In Love With You’, by which point we’re in pure power pop territory. There is nothing ambiguous or sly about it. And it’s brilliant. The album continues to develop and mature as it goes on. The tempo dramatically dips on ‘Not the One’ and never really springs back to the pop punk pace we are used to (except perhaps on the title track, which is as sprightly as anything the band have yet recorded). The hushed contemplation is notable, as is the lack of venom, sarcasm or anything remotely unempathetic or insincere.

The artistic success of these choices is perhaps debatable and depends largely on your attachment to Joyce Manors established sound and style. The ballads are pretty and all the tunes are polished and professional- but then that could be a problem to some. Half the joy used to come from the implicit spontaneity and reckless enthusiasm captured on songs like ‘Constant Headache’ and ‘Heart Tattoo’. There was something endearing about the group’s broad grins and sloppy dynamics; the way they melted emo sentiments with Indie smarts and pop punk energy. All the loose ends have been tied up on ‘A Million Dollers to Kill Me’ and the themes are treated with reverence. Nothing is really left to the imagination this time around and there is something less enigmatic about the way they are revelling brazenly in sounds rather than deftly hinting at them – the shoe-gazing atmospherics of ‘Gone Tomorrow’ for example or the lush, mid 70s studio production on ‘Silly Games’, which rather overstate the band’s influences.

Growing up, straightening out and settling down without losing your youthful verve and enthusiasm – this is the challenge we all have to face at some point. Joyce Manor are personifying this on ‘A Million Dollars to Kill Me’. I think they can be both proud of what they achieved and mournful for what they left behind. Ultimately, this could be the album that sets them up for life – after all, pop punk isn’t a particularly good look for middle aged men (just look at Blink 182 or Green Day at the moment to see how hard it is to navigate this space). This is a grown up Joyce Manor album for childish times. We can be thankful for that.

7/10

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