All entries for Wednesday 24 October 2007
October 24, 2007
Kosheen are a group almost destined for obscurity. A quick straw poll of people I know revealed that few, if any, could remember the group- which is some achievement considering their last effort 2003 Kokopelli went Gold in the UK. The years following this saw the band move to Universal Germany-a record label that doesn’t release albums in the UK. A move straight from the Sandinista! school of how to lose money in the music industry. In subsequent years I have to admit being totally oblivious to the need for another Kosheen album, but here it is. The album is a halfway house between the electronica of the bands first album (Resist) and this (the follow ups) commercial edge. The result is a musical anachronism, the sound of the late 90’s, many of the tracks feel as if they would be at home as backing music in an old style 90’s gothic teen drama (Buffy, Angel, Roswell et al) They bring to mind the clutch of Faithless tracks featuring Dido on vocals and musically the best way to describe vocalist Sian Evans emotional delivery would be to imagine a voice somewhere between Dido and my washing machine. The often emotionless vocals are aided by the walls of neutered synthesiser and insipid beats of the other two members of the band, who as far as I’m concerned could well be R2D2 and C3P0 from Star Wars, surely no human could provide such an uninspired accompaniment.
Instead of buying this album, imagine the attempts at baggy/electronica that pepper the first Kasabian album with a hollow drone over the top. The album is also simply too long. At 16 tracks it’s an extremely tasking record to sit through, its worst crime is the mediocrity-some tracks, such as the title track and Wish You Were Here could be fantastic. Instead they simply hint at hidden depths and achingly beautiful song writing white washed by the walls of lifeless grey noise draped over them. This is functional music, music to iron to; music to put in a Natwest advert. It is certainly not music to fall in love to and to carry around in your heart forever. It’s a shame really you feel released 3 years ago half as long twice as raw, this could have been a contender.
I feel sorry for Dave Gahan. It must be hard to try and live down a legacy as long-lasting as Depeche Mode’s when all you want to do is make some decent electronic music on your own steam away from your main band. It must be even harder when someone like Thom Yorke releases something like The Eraser that steals all the best tricks and then lets his band release another stormer weeks before your own. Admittedly, his solo debut Paper Monsters came out first and recent Depeche Mode album Playing the Angel included the rather good single, Suffer Well, one of the few songs written by Gahan that has been released by Depeche Mode. It’s a shame that Hourglass does little to suggest he’s got the material to last a whole album.
It’s by no means a mediocre album; Tony Hoffer behind the desk has ensured that the sounds are there, the beats wholesome, the atmospherics lush and the vocals clear in the mix. The problem is that it’s more electronically orientated than Paper Monsters, inevitably leading to a repetitive slog through similar sounding songs when some different instrumentation might have proved more interesting. There are some misplaced dynamics in this album, meaning a bit of trimming or rearranging could have upped my score a notch or two. Opener Saw Something kicks in four minutes too late and then disappears immediately after. New single Kingdom and Deeper and Deeper fare better with more consistent danceable beats but then the middle section of the album drags horribly with slower tempos and more sparse arrangements (although ‘Use You’ might wake you up, it’s still quite dull). By the time you get to (I hope ironically titled) Endless, there’s no momentum left to enjoy such a slow builder, despite it essentially being a cooler but darker brother to Goldfrapp’s glam stomp stylings on Supernature. Gahan’s lyrics have not improved much either, but as with Depeche Mode, his delivery has always the one of biggest pulls. It’s in full emotive force here, tricking you into thinking lines like "Open the door, it’s only me" (from ‘Kingdom’) actually mean something profound if you’re only half listening.
When the band actually turns up on closer ‘Down’, you certainly think a better album or a brilliant EP could’ve been crafted from this selection of songs, but unfortunately instead we get something distinctly average, if not below.
Think back to the 1990s and the tireless wave of brit-pop acts, albums and bands that bombarded the charts with spirited and political music. Looking around today, it is astonishing how many of them have disappeared from the music scene and embarrassing how many of them have attempted come-backs that have been monumentally disappointing. One band which has always remained on the peripheries but consistently regarded in critical and public opinion is the Furries. This, their eighth studio album in the English language, is unlikely to reach the same chart success as their most popular album to date, “Rings Around the World” but is nonetheless an admirable, eccentric and astounding release.
One thing that I will say against it, which is not really much of a muchness anyway, is how horrific the album art is. There’s not a lot you can say in its defence because it looks like the vomit produced after an acid binge. But please look past it because you will most definitely be rewarded. The quirky intro, “Gateway Song” is almost a throwback to classic 60s rock’n’roll with delightful keys skipping about underneath. The forthcoming single release, “Run-Away” sounds like an homage to the soul singers of the 50s and conjures images of the American diner, jukeboxes and do-whop. In the same ilk, “Carbon Dating” provides one of the highlights of the album, and is reminiscent of an old school slow-dance in the gym, with a delightful melodic warmth and frankly bizarre beginning which sounds like a carousel.
Their first single release was “Show Your Hand”, which sounds like the sweet and feel-good type of song that should underscore a filmic, dream-like sequence where two lovers frolic through rainbows. Entering into the land of the eccentric are songs such as “Baby Ate My Eightball” and “Battersea Odessey” which are so weird and exciting that they cannot fail to charm you. Their more conservative indie-rock songs, like “Neo Consumer” have integrity and catchy rhythms that will literally have you bouncing and bopping in your seat. One aspect of the album certainly doesn’t wash and that’s the idea of its concept. The album apparently charts the events and life-lessons learned during a young girl’s [Venus’] foray into the city. Although this doesn’t really translate, the album still stands as a light-hearted analysis of society with instrumental undertones suggesting danger, violence and passion. Da iawn boys!
- Carys Esseen