28.6.07

Review of the Klaxons' Myths of the Near Future



Let’s be clear about this one: the hype surrounding the ‘nu rave’ scene in the past months has thrown up a host of bands that have less to do with E-fuelled fluorescent weirdos listening to the musical equivalent of a flea-bitten moggy being violently sick over your new carpet, and much more to do with a new breed of indie band, namely one which is in tune with the crackling variousness and potentiality of contemporary rock music.

Enter Klaxons. A three piece born out of Stratford-upon-Avon (you know, Shakespeare country) and Bournemouth, they’re smart, savvy, and worryingly fluorescent. But while many of their die-hard fans insist on brandishing glow-sticks at their gigs, and while the sirens and vocal loops scream out from their single, ‘Atlantis to Interzone’, their sound is one which reveals an impressive and stellar mesh of influences and ideas fighting for supremacy in the collective Klaxon mind. It’s like their trying to write weird and wonderful songs that stretch on into infinity armed only with the standard instruments of your average rock band: vocals, guitars, bass, and drums. Klaxons almost seem to be striving to do with contemporary music what the likes of Thomas Pynchon attempted to do with the modern novel: pick up the same tools as everyone else, craft something bizarre and initially unsettling, and transport the reader/listener and their expectations to somewhere at once bemusing and incredible. Perhaps an odd comparison, until you listen to first single ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ and realise that the Klaxon boys have done their homework.

Where the Klaxons shine, then, is in borrowing from rave’s and dance’s finer attributes: adding synths and loops to hone and refine their fizzling, Johnny Greenwood-esque guitars and rolling bass sounds to perfection. This is particularly evident on the aforementioned ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’, but also on the cosmically Muse-like and eerily-moving opener ‘Two Receivers’, and their impressive and soaring cover of Grace’s mid-nineties rave hit, ‘It’s Not Over Yet’. But while the Klaxons show much promise and live up to much more than the hysteria of being flag-bearers to a genre nobody seems to know much about, they are nonetheless somewhat limited by the resources at their disposal, as matched with their fantastical and interstellar musical ambitions. It’s all there in the alluringly strange and ambitious harmonics of their lyrics: songs about setting sail, travelling from Atlantis, floating on ‘silver waves through the skies’, even in one of the album’s surprise highlights, ‘Isle of Her’, a song about rowing towards paradise, notably inspired by Greek mythology. The Klaxons want to soar: their diverse range of literary, mythological, cultural, and musical influences fighting for space in songs that vary from a couple of minutes in length to six minute stompers. But often they’re held back, either by their collective tremulous vocals not quite matching the demands that their songs make of them, or by too many sounds and ideas clunking about tunes that would benefit from being tidied and tightened. But then this is only their first album, and I’ve got high hopes for the Klaxons’ future efforts. After all, in the space of a year they’ve been plucked from relative obscurity and have churned out an album that’s on a different (and in my opinion, much more habitable and colourful) planet than that which the Arctic Monkey’s did as 2006’s surprise success. For while your listening to the Franz Ferdinand crackle and throb of ‘Totem on the Timeline’ one minute (with its decidedly weird line ‘At Club 18-30 I met Julius Caesar, Lady Diana and Mother Theresa’), suddenly Klaxons spring the surprise of follower ‘As Above, So Below’, a song that has more in common with Belle and Sebastian and the Scissor Sisters than anything else. And it’s this ability to blend diverse influences with artistic integrity and, crucially, a sense of fun, that ultimately makes Myths of the Near Future such an impressive debut. Not to mention one that bodes well for the band’s future.

http://www.myspace.com/klaxons

17.6.07

Why I Don't Like You, Calvin Harris

Calvin Harris, you are truly the worst thing I’ve had the misfortune to come across in a long while. It’s like somebody took Goldy Looking Chain and stripped them bare of all their humour and irony (and, for that matter, relative talent), and shoved them in some hideous blender with an unhealthy slab of tacky electro-pop in token nod to the yuppies and scenesters flocking like flies to the shit of New Rave. I’m sorry, as I’m normally a reasonable and fairly level-headed sort of person, but your bargain bin excuse for music is causing me to write absurdly long sentences. And feel queasy. Why do I detest you so, Calvin? There’s a plethora of reasons, but we’ll stick with the ones that are glaringly obvious.

First, there’s your image. Mirrorball sunglasses are not cool. Nor are day-glo colours, even if they seem appropriate in the context of the video for your first single (more on that later). Nor is appearing on T4’s coverage of the O2 Wireless Festival dressed like a pikey. Especially when you proceed to sing a song about ‘getting all the girls’, looking like you’re the sort of character who hangs outside of his local Kwik Save while trying to sell pills to teenagers.
 
Second, there are your song lyrics. I’ll take the liberty of printing some here from a lovingly composed transcript:

I like them Black girls, I like them White girls
I like them Asian girls, I like them mixed raced girls
I like them Spanish girls, I like them Italian girls
I like the French girls, and I like Scandinavian girls

I like them tall girls, I like them short girls
I like them brown hair girls, I like them blonde hair girls
I like them big girls, I like them skinny girls
I like them carrying a little bitty weight girls

[…]

I get all the girls, I get all the girls
I get all the girls, I get all the girls
I get all the girls, I get all the girls
I get all the girls, I get all the girls

[and so on]

Now I know what you’re going to say, Calvin. You’re going to say: ‘But those song lyrics from my totally amazing second single ‘Girls’ are out of context, Ben, if you listen to them with the music of the song they gain new meaning, power and depth’. Or maybe you wouldn’t say that, maybe you’d just click your fingers to summon a hoard of Calvin-hungry women who’ll inevitably maul you from all sides. Either way, you’re wrong. The only claim to half-decentness that your song ‘Girls’ has is that your voice has been electronically tampered with to the extent that 1) you can’t tell that, as your live acoustic session on T4 revealed, you’re completely tone deaf, and 2) that you can’t make out the truly awful lyrics, which as the above transcript reveals, read like they were written on the back of a pack of Benson and Hedges with a knackered biro. On a bus. In a hurry.

But then ‘Girls’ is nothing compared to your first single. ‘Acceptable in the 80s’. Let's get one thing straight, Calvin: this song will never be acceptable. Even music companies and movements in the 1980s itself, in all of their misguided wonder, would’ve recognised that. I see what you’ve done though. And to be fair, it’s quite clever. After all, the current demographic at which popular music is aimed were all born in the 80s, weren’t they? And as you say, you’ve ‘got love for them if they were born in the 80s’. What’s more, you’ve ‘got hugs for them if they were born in the 80s’. And let’s not forget Calvin, you magnanimous yet slightly creepy guy you, you’ll even ‘do things’ to people who ‘were born in the 80s’. No wonder we’re all rushing to the dance floors of our local indie clubs in the vain hope that you’ll deliver on some of this promised ‘Calvin lurve’.

What else? Well, the thing that annoys me more than your image and song lyrics, hell, even your sound bytes and interview quotes (‘They make very tedious music. What kind of person is going to make all this music and not make one single tune? What's the point?’ – a comment I assumed to be self-reflexive, then later realised you were talking about Bloc Party), is your album title. I Created Disco? Calvin, Calvin, Calvin. Sit down. You didn’t create disco. You haven’t even attempted to reinvent disco. I’ll tell you who invented disco. People with talent. Hues Corporation. The Bee Gees. Jackson 5. The Four Seasons. If you want to hear a band who’ve built on that tradition, listen to the Scissor Sisters. I don’t much like them myself, but I can at least tell they’ve got talent. And you? Well, you’ve got mirrorball sunglasses, haven't you Calvin. Cool.