Record of the week
Amazing Baby – Rewild
‘Bring On The Terrible Twos’
If blissed out, powder-munching hippies making summery, pysch-pop sounds familiar then read on, but fear not, for this is no rushed follow-up to the hit-and-miss Oracular Spectacular show. Sure, there are similarities in loose genres and the fact that both MGMT and Amazing Baby put out excellent EPs before their long-playing debuts, also in the remarkable fact that both attended the same Connecticut university, along with Chairlift and Boy Crisis. Whether a one-university scene has much longevity beyond these alumni we will just have to see, or failing that ask Conor Oberst and his Saddle Creekers for their thoughts.
In the long run, VanWyngarden and cohort fell down in places on their LP with shrug-some padding and insubstantial high (if you get me) jinx. Since the release of Amazing Baby’s lean Infinite ****ing Cross EP, expectation has been equally high, and Rewild is comprised of almost all of that EP (formally available for free download on their Myspace), as well as a couple of old favourites and several new numbers. At first, these newer numbers (Kankra, Dead Light and Roverfrenz, for example) seem complimentary, intoxicating even, but repeat plays ultimately reveal them as pale in comparison to the more established tracks. As some have suggested, ‘Deerripper’ is a little too close to Kasabian’s pomp and ‘Smoke Bros’ starts like a bulimic ‘Hard To Explain’ before descending into brass-based whimsy. This is no disaster however because Will Roan and company successfully paint their stronger songs onto this acceptable canvas of extended interlude.
‘Headdress’ is stately and upbeat, a grown-up and gruffer ‘Time To Pretend’, with just a touch of Suede. ‘Invisible Palace’ is full of Black Mountain’s stoner-stodge and, yes, MGMT’s flighty, summertime grooves. Amazing Baby however have a few tricks up their sleeves, and likely a couple in their pockets too. ‘Bayonets’ and ‘The Narwhal’ have more than a spot of Bolan’s glam-rock to them, but Rewild is all about anthemic closer ‘Pump Yr Brakes’. Unforgivable text-speak aside, it is as excitable as it was on the EP, a rousing, fists-in-the-air and ass-on-the-dancefloor romp of heavy riffing, which recalls Alice In Chain’s ‘Grind’, throwing in sickeningly pleasing, psychedelic, pop-rock fancy to dilute. Having only formed in early 2008, Amazing Baby are true to their name at times, elsewhere better. And here’s hoping they grow into something even more impressive. Bring on the terrible twos.
Crocodiles – Summer Of Hate
‘Echo And The Jesus-And-Marymen’
Crocodiles are not really deserving of their Wavves comparisons, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Outside of the title track, which does buzz along distortedly in a noise-pop fashion, and the fact the two share a label, it seems unjustified. Where the two do share a similarity is in their hit-and-miss ethos, from the highs of the filthy funk of ‘Flash Of Light’ to the indifferent, synth-driven lows of ‘Young Drugs’. The opening track, ‘I Wanna Kill’ is a straight lift from the Jesus and Mary Chain catalogue, replete with stark drumming patterns and gentle fuzz. Elsewhere the sound is more like Black Angels’ druggy, laconic brand of pysch-rock. Summer Of Hate has probably unwittingly given itself an expiry date along with its release date and title, but should soundtrack that period quite ably nevertheless.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – MBAR
‘Confident & Competent’
If Grizzly Bear’s recent Veckatimest was a meeting of Animal Collective complexity and Fleet Foxes close harmonies, then this well-endowed owner of names’ album is the point at which that record meets Bright Eyes and Bon Iver. It is no surprise there is a similarity, what with Taylor of said Grizzly Bear providing production duties. No more so are these comparisons evident than with the harmonies and Oberst-aping of ‘Who’s Laughing?’. And in response, no one. This is a very confident and competent debut, which houses all the above influence under the looming shadow of a certain Neil Young, and still has time to welcome a TV On The Radio-er contribution. There must be something in the water in Brooklyn, and my guess is that it is not legal. From its mumbling acoustic opening, trembling freak-folk wig outs à la Andrew Bird to its Crazy Horse guitar solos, this singer-songwriter has plenty to offer and, despite the banality of the phrase, will be one to watch.
Haunts – Haunts
‘Not The Cross Over They Envisaged’
London’s Haunts must be kicking themselves for jumping the gun. If they had piggybacked the White Lies surge, then, and only then, they may have had some success. They released 6 months or so prior and as such their cod-goth punk-rock now smells very off. It all comes off as very sub-standard: sub-White Lies, sub-She Wants Revenge and sub-Killers, circa Hot Fuss. As such, ‘Throw Down Your Guns’, possible a premonitory track of what was to come, sounds like a faux-gloom cover of Mr. Brightside, ‘Breaking Up’ is an entirely dirgeful, in a bad way, ballad. There is some super-pop-goth metal promise in ‘Low Slung City Skyline’ before clueless backing vocals destroy it, and a moment of redemption in the clichéd but fun, ‘Live Fast Die Young’, until the apparition of some hilarious Brick-In-The-Wall chorus of doom nonsense. This all adds up to the sad conclusion that these Haunts are unlikely to linger long in this world. It is time to cross over.
Stórsveit Nix Noltes – Royal Family-Divorce
It seems that New Mexico’s nu-world music has made it out of the Southern States, past Denver’s Devotchka and all the way to Iceland. Natural extension of Beirut, Alaska In Winter and A Hawk And A Hacksaw’s brands of Balkan folk, Reykjavík’s SNN (it’s easier on the Alt commands) peddle an album full of entirely instrumental, Bulgarian-themed, celebratory polka-folk with dashes of post-rock and punk to boot. Where the brass, strings and accordion are not river dancing in cacophony with electric guitar, they are making valid and exciting translations of actual, traditional East European folk.
It comes as little surprise that SNN’s 11 member-strong base dabble in eclectic experimentalism; some of them are former múm musicians, and have all toured with the Animal Collective. What is surprising is that for all that is detailed above, the resultant, muddled soup is, in places, a little grey and anonymous. Elsewhere however, Royal Family-Divorce swells majestically on the deliciously dark ‘Revolution Song’, witnesses paranoids glimpses of nervous kraut-rock amongst the foray on ‘Winding Horo’, and at one point feels like the soundtrack to a Last Of The Mohicans-themed wedding, in Sofia, circa 1960, only with added crazy of course.
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