Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Dananananaykroyd occupy a unique place in ridiculous band names history with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. That is the last time that easy review catchpoint will be used, as Danana (a contraction this review will use for ease) are much more than just a silly name. Aren't you glad we got that out of the way?
Much like Danana's previous EP 'Sissy Hits', it takes a few listens for your ears to discern the melody out of the noise. And noise there is, in copious amounts. Witness the racket that ends opener 'Hey Everyone' before melding into the tribal chanting that opens 'Watch This.' Every track could now be listed for examples of parent annoying loudness. But melody is there too. Just listen to the riff at the end of 'Infinity Milk.' Or the opening of 'Some Dresses.' Or a song that demonstrates the perfect balance between noise and melody, '1993.'
Anyone who has listened to the aforementioned EP will experience slight deja vu, as two tracks survive the transition (the aforementioned '1993', and 'The Greater Than Symbol And The Hash'). The latter changes pace between to epic strung out screaming to finish, featuring lyrics about “discovering a new alphabet in the rubble of a destroyed city.” Other reference points on the album include: nervousness, an underground war, and kidnappers. No sex? Duh, of course there is. Check out the barrage of 'Totally Bone.' (Sample lyric: “Stand bare, Except for a headdress or something,
And we can totally bone.”)
Those who have only heard the comparatively gentle single 'Black Wax' will have been misled by a false beacon. It juts out amidst the guitars and the shouting, like an emo donning an M & S suit to meet his girlfriend's parents. The chorus lacks the charm of the rest of the record too, being that wrong side of annoying. You can imagine the record label telling the band “could you do something they'll play on daytime radio?”
However, it's the only (slight) lull in quality. There is rarely a let up in the speaker bashing, bar the gentle minute and a half at the end of '1993', which provides a welcome breather from the onslaught. Regional accents prevail on an album that could have delved into easy Americanisms, given its source material of hardcore and math rock. A broad Scottish brogue is reassuringly audible through all the sonic shrapnel. Danana are always likely to be bracketed with bands like Johnny Foreigner and Los Campesinos! because they try to escape the myopia of British indie. They're not a band you can imagine releasing a song about working in a call centre.
And that's something we should all be thankful for. In an age of globalisation national identities are crumbling, leading, maybe, to a disintegration of the British music stereotype. Oasis, The Verve, and all the dinosaurs can fade away, and be replaced by outward looking, noisecentric, but melody focussed bands like Danana. 'Hey Everyone!' is a debut of rare brilliance, one which will bring a childish grin to your face, and a jig to your step. Get dancing.
Luke Pritchard, Dane Bowers, Katie Melua, Dan Gillespie Sells, Polly Scattergood. All graduated from the Brit School. Polly has little to do with her illustrious peers. For she treads an ethereal path. The music is reminiscent of 'White Chalk' by PJ Harvey, or Kate Bush at her most ethereal.
These reference points seem tired. They could easily apply to Florence and the Machine too. Or Tori Amos. Is it a latent sexism with music that female solo artists have to fall into one of three easily categorised types? They're either: divas, eg Mariah, Whitney etc, sexy popstars, eg Rhianna, Britney Spears etc, or kooky outsiders like Polly. Or do the performers themselves help perpetrate these clichés?
Whichever, Polly is firmly in the latter type. A segment of the first track, 'I Hate The Way' ends with the line“The doctor said I have to sing a happy tune” whereupon it is quickly followed by a series of desperate outbursts about a cheating partner, spilled in a stream of conciousness. It ends with the thought “Then I think he'll love me and he'll stop looking at the other girls.”
'Please Don't Touch' references “dark corners of my room”, “I lost my mind” and “fickle like a fruit machine.” Polly perpetrates these easy cliches of the kooky songstress. She doesn't reach Regina Spektor levels, but Regina can play a mean piano and is a better singer. Perhaps they're used to cover the lower quality of the melodies.
Nothing sticks in the head. Some tracks are down right cheesy. 'Unforgiving Arms' sounds like the worst of 1990s pop ballads. It firmly straddles the middle of the road, leaving the listener to ponder their shopping list, or whether to put a load in the washing machine. 'Poem Song' is ponderous, the only build up being to the singer's voice cracking with more emotion than the usual plain reading of her lines.
Polly isn't going to win plaudits for her lyrics either. “I am strong, I am not week...I built this house, it took quite long.” It seems she had the same lyrics teacher at Brit School as Kate “I've got a family and I drink cups of tea” Nash. Someone should be losing their job.
'Nitrogen Pink' provides one of the highlights, building from a simple start to a string led swirl of instrumentation which sounds glorious. It is one of too few, spread too sparsely over a disc that too often clings to the female outsider musician stereotype. You would have hoped that the Brit School could have taught her to play a different role from the one the music industry wants.
Generation X, man. Rad. Etc etc. I'm 'So Bored.' Stick it to the man. Wavves are hyped on the blogosphere, their pop joys hidden under a layer of vicious noise. All the cool kids like 'em, so why don't you? Times New Viking comparisons are inevitable, and unavoidable.
It's loud, it's dirty, it's brilliant. A guitar riff plays out in the background, swooping female vocals join Nathan on his disaffected vocals. The noise acts as another instrument, another tone added to the mix. Much like Times New Viking, the question remains as to whether the songs would sound nearly so good cleanly produced. This matters little when the finished product is so special.
'How Are You?' marks a change from the sounds of the album, a slowly strummed detuned lullaby, the static hiss quietened to a whisper. It shows an almost sweet side, a skinny jeaned balladeer. “There's a hole in my head, I won't make it to 25.” It's a strung out melancholy beauty. Both tracks here show that Wavves deserve every plaudit chucked their way.
Clonking metaphor occurs at 0:10 in. Listener dies a little on the inside. 0:56- singer mmmms through a bit where she couldn't come up with a line, like a Flight of the Conchords parody. 1:42- a rhyme of 'story', 'ignore me' and 'glory'. Listener decides a 14-year-old boy with a rudimentary grasp of English could do better.
If Morton Valence do want to be taken seriously, then an opening lyric of “I'm falling down the staircase of love” will not do it. It makes you sound like a 16-year-old over-earnest girl who thinks she's being poetic. It won't do. The music behind is sparse, and with different lyrics would spark up. As is, it's a failure.
'Veronica's Blades' massively improves things by dispensing of the vocals. A pulverising disco beat and synth lines make it a stylish beauty, and shows that were Morton Valence learnt how to write lyrics they could become something grand.
Friday, 3 April 2009
i wrote some stuff for drownedinsound.com and here are links to it. Dedicated readers of this blog (ermmmm...me?) rejoice.
courtney vs twitter
a month in records
white denim sxsw diary
danananananananananananankroyd tour diary
los campesinos! news
camden crawl news
video drowned up 1
video drowned up 2