Record of the Week
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It’s Blitz
‘Hitz From Miss O And Co’
Let us be clear that It’s Blitz is not Fever To Tell, nor Show Your Bones mark two, and even less a progression and extension when compared to Is Is. Is Is now appears to have been a cathartic expulsion of all that was left of Karen and co’s desire to screech and torture instruments. It’s Blitz loses the squeaks and squawks and welcomes sultry electro to the party. Those wishing for Fever To Tell 2 may well be disappointed.
Evolution is natural by definition, and so is a desire to be commercially successful. Few manage it with any credibility, but Yeah Yeah Yeahs, along with Kings Of Leon, appear to be doing quite a good job of it. It’s Blitz is hugely accessible and radio friendly. As such, it lacks the cutting-edge excitement that Fever To Tell may have offered, but compensates by maintaining their danceable, art-punk-influenced sound. Whilst most Yeah Yeah Yeahs releases have been catchy, none have been more glamorous.
The opening trinity of tracks inject a disco feel into the equation recalling Gary Numan and Blondie in its crossover. To a beat, these three are indie dancefloor filler and killer in one. ‘Skeletons’ however is more in line with ‘Maps’, a quieter ode, perhaps a lament to the underrated ‘Show Your Bones’.
Sadly, the middle section of the album becomes shrug-worthy. The tempo is reduced and the result is disposable. These tracks are not at all revolutionary and more in line with Show Your Bones’ weaker pop-rockers. ‘Hysteric’ and ‘Little Shadow’ take it down a gear or two again at the album’s close and once again prove the band are capable of genuinely moving, shuffling pop-rock. These tracks are the natural end to the Blitz party, a pleasant but slightly bittersweet, walk home on a cool evening.
It’s Blitz is not complex. It also has no pretence about its ambition, no apologies, and it is wholly enjoyable because of that. It continues an impressive run and certainly adds a further string to their burgeoning bow. It’s Blitz, certainly at its onset, is full of disco-punk-pop-rock hits, a formula which allows its tale end to showcase their slower, romantic waltzes. If that is the new focus, Yeah Yeah Yeahs doing New Romanticism may be the next natural step of evolution. You heard it here first. Shuddering optional.
Doves - Kingdom Of Rust
After a four year hiatus Doves return with an album strongly hinting that period has allowed them to rust. Luckily, most of the rust of which they speak is only contained in the content of the lead single and title track, reference to megalithic pillars of industry crying in their abandonment. Doves may feel that city-mates Elbow have eclipsed them with ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ and their public abandoned them in favour of that good ship, but Kingdom of Rust should stop the rot, so to speak. It is strong enough to persuade their followers back onto the right path, and convert a few new pilgrims along the way.
The album opens with ‘Jetstream’, a track that doesn’t immediately recall Doves at all, more an indie-rock cover of one of their earlier Sub Sub incarnations. 303 sequences jostle sadly with unfortunately hackneyed, but local, lyrics about ‘meeting you there, high in the air’. The title tracks returns to more recently familiar ground, Goodwin’s trademark soaring shuffle bringing ‘Black And White Town’ to mind. It, along with ‘Winter Hill’, makes Doves Doves. It speaks of local landmark and undulence Winter Hill, the latter track references Manchester’s urban decay and the peculiar, but ironic, beauty it brings and inspires. It’s a pity that the track is little more than a pleasant meander, a more slender, distant cousin of ‘Here It Comes’.
Sadly, some later numbers lack purpose, ‘Compulsion’ is an uneventful but pleasing plod, for example. Overall, it lacks a ‘Pounding’ to convince the newcomer, or a radical sense of progression. Nevertheless, ‘Kingdom Of Rust’ is gently anthemic. Where it hits the mark, it imbues an identifiable regional and national pride in their brand of indie-rock in a way that British Sea Power did last year with their excellent release ‘Do You Like Rock Music?’
‘Kingdom Of Rust’ is the sound of a band very comfortable with themselves and their sound, perhaps a little too comfortable, for complacency will allow rust to set in.
Wavves - Wavvves
Throughout Wavvves the impression is one of a b-sides and rarities collection, of a spot of general knob-twiddling experimentation on a four-track rather than a convincing sophomore effort. The album is a distortion-heavy ensemble of super-slacker-indebted, lo-fi garage-rock with a large dollop of bedroom electronica inserted haphazardly. Although far from the sun-kissed harmonies of pop supremos the Beach Boys, their legacy also lives in this record, buried under mounds of pizza boxes and homemade bongs.
Album highlight is early single ‘I’m So Bored’, a call to arms for those for whom morning-time is but a concept, an iconic surf-rock riff plays out over its close. ‘Beach Demon’ is a lively, fuzzy ode to West-Coast living. ‘Weed Demon’ suggests drug use may be to blame for the meandering on offer, though does come close to hinting at an acoustic Animal Collective track, the distortion for once only gently tanning the production. ‘To The Dregs’ is more of the same, in the ‘So Bored’ vein.
Elsewhere however, it is less rousing. ‘Rainbow Everywhere’ is plainly irritating, aimless and instrumental glitchtronica veiled in large-scale fuzz. ‘Goth Girls’ is a more successful attempt at the same sound and introduces the first of five Goth-titled tracks, continuing the obsession laid down by the first album. Other tracks come across a little like No Age’s listless noise but without the hooks, like Jay Reatard’s DIY pop-punk but without the tunes.
Williams may be bored now but sorting the wheat from the chaff on any next album should keep him well occupied in the future.
Fever Ray - Fever Ray
‘One Armed Scissor’
Fever Ray is Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife fame. She and her brother, for the most part, make credible to excellent oddball electro pop. She does the singing and filters it through a highly identifiable pitch shifter. Fever Ray is like that, only less so. It would appear that half of The Knife does a one-armed scissor make. The album lacks her brother’s sequencer skills and their combined synergy.
This eponymous effort collects ten morsels of dark, atmospheric, ambient electro-pop to create an anti-dinner party sound, Andersson’s pitch shifting ever-present. The album is listenable and approaches enjoyable, but it is also uneventful. There is too great a reliance on the vocal at the cost of the music, which, despite its Knife-like squeaks and pops, gently meanders for the majority of the record. It lacks the thrust one might expect.
Album highlight is probably ‘Triangle Walks’, which clacks along nicely in its beats, drips in its sequences and combines with an enviable, near-Oriental overlay. Andersson seems most at home on this track. She seems woefully absent on the rage-inducing ‘Keep The Streets Empty For Me’, which inadvisably attempts to introduce the panpipe into contemporary electronica.
Blunted, Andersson has tried, but not achieved, the same as her sibling collaboration. Proof then that two heads are better than one.
Grammatics - Grammatics
‘Well Polished Duels’
On a first listen, Grammatics’ eponymous debut comes across like a neutered At The Drive In (Sparta) covering Red Light Company and Foals’ back catalogue. This is wholly unsettling comparison so it is with happy heart that repeat listens volunteer hidden depths. What upsets initial spins is the vocal, pitched somewhere between an indie-schmindie mew and The Mars Volta’s wail. In places, there is too heavy a reliance placed on this vocal, as it is passable at best. It would have been better to concentrate on the music, which, for the most part, is quite intriguing. ‘D.I.L.E.M.M.A’ starts with math-rock intricacy; ‘Murderer’ proudly hosts a menacing post-punk base line.
Grammatics take these influences and add a dash of punk-funk to create a sound that in parts recalls fellow Leeds band The Sunshine Underground tackling dusty and emotional Puressence anthems. Radiohead comparisons, in particular with OK Computer, seem a little misplaced. Not to tread on any toes, but the credible Duels may be closer to the mark.
There is a certain integrity to the album that gives it substance, a desire to concentrate on credibility rather than the charts - and they manage it, though only just. Without elements such as the album’s pleasing strings (‘Broken Wing’ and elsewhere), the considered electro-arrangements, or the niggling affection for all things Cedric Bixler (‘Rosa Flood’), they could have fallen foul of popular attention, which would have undoubtedly taken off their already rounded corners (see ‘The Vague Archive’) and resulted in a collection of blandish, indie pop-rock. They risk being labelled competent but shrug-worthy, also rans if you will, but happily their attention to detail, the grammar to their essay, should lift their collective neck above water and deliver them into the contender category.
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