It’s geek chic week on Getintothis as London’s Hot Chip and Nottingham’s I Was A Cub Scout prove a cut above the rest with their forays into ecstasy and eclecticism. Elsewhere Adele, Duke Spirit & Cat Power drop under the radar.
I Was A Cub Scout: I Want You To Know That There Is Always Hope – Album Of The Week
Ignore all first impressions.
Shocking band name – quite. Clunky record title – indeed. Horrendous sleeve – too true. Daft clobber – no doubt.
So far, so bad for Nottingham’s teenage duo, Todd Marriott and William Bowerman, aka I Was A Cub Scout. But hey, all is forgiven after one quick spin of their gloriously triumphant debut.
In terms of punch the air sugar-rushes few cuts this year will match IWACS’s brazenly ecstatic offering. It contains enough youthful fervour and emotional yo-yo-ing to fill an entire series of Skins despite containing as much sex appeal and scientific wonderment as an episode of The Sky At Night.
See, IWACS perfectly marry a fetishistic admiration for pop, electronica and prog with the kind of naive abandon last heard on CSS‘, equally as charming yet entirely different, self-titled debut.
Where the colourful Brazilians deal in getting trashed, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Marriott‘s songs deal with matters very much of the heart soundtracked to euphoric gushing explosions of melody.
Echoes, with it’s synthetic trumpets and roars of whoa-hoo-ahoo has the same effect as classic AC/DC, but stripped of all classic-rock and replaced by mini-space-pop.
Pink Squares captures their essence best; all parping robo-keys ala Jean Michel-Jarre which subside to a searing pop-rock chorus when with 40 seconds til detonation a blistering prog-solo enters the fray to leave you breathless.
Sure, Marriot’s emo-tinged lyrical endeavours stray into mawkish wet-dreamland – see how opener Save Your Wishes circles around the chorus ‘Save your wishes, they won’t help you, keep your kisses as they aren’t wanted,’ but it’s the ADD-addled excitement that primarily arrests the senses.
This flirtation with astronomical atmospherics extends throughout I Want You To Know… and cleverly the duo know when to take their foot off the gas before letting rip; iii opens with crystalised guitars twinned with sequencers almost like a welcome parade for an alien landing. Similarly on A Step Too Far Behind Floydian crashes of cymbals signal the record’s closing mini-epic.
But it’s Marriot’s undeniable skill with melody which is the killer touch. Our Smallest Adventures recalls Ash doing Mew – all glacial washes of synth and spunky garage-punk, Hunter’s Daughter is Tiger Milk-era Belle & Sebastian off its head on alcopops while P’s & Q’s builds from wind-swept electronica into a full throttle stadia show-stopper.
Cynics will shoot the testosterone-fuelled pups down such is their heady exuberance – that’s because their too old to remember what it feels like to be young – or as a certain Mr Cobain put it, ‘Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old…’
Which camp are you in?
For fans of: Skins, Sloppy kissing, Mew.
The Duke Spirit: Neptune
You Are Here
We’ve been here before. Fuggy guitars, billowing rhythmic bombast and foxy Liela Moss presiding over all with a cracked primal howl.
Plenty to nod to, but such scarcity of ambition, could lead to nodding off.
For fans of: JD, BRMC, PCP.
Cat Power: Jukebox
Will the real Cat Power please stand up?
Watching her hyper-animated performance on Jools Holland‘s Later last week was a touch shocking. Who was that prancing battery-powered nu-chicster? Certainly not the Chan Marshall we know and love. Gone was the sensitive, vulnerable soul, in its place a wacky bunny with a glazed expression. All surface, little feeling.
See, Jukebox is her reinvention LP. Chan the singer, reinterpreting songs by the likes of Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, James Brown and even Cat Power.
Sure there’s undeniable beauty at work (ironically, perhaps best on a reworked version of her own Metal Heart from 1998’s Moon Pix) – how couldn’t there be with a voice as untamed as hers.
But for the most part this is Cat Power’s dinner party record, and since when was that a good thing.
For fans of: Cheese & biscuits.
Hot Chip: Made In The Dark
When Hot Chip’s co-leader Joe Goddard described Made In The Dark as the group’s White Album it sounded like a rather grand statement of intent. But to be fair he wasn’t far off the mark.
And while their third offering, and follow up to 2006’s superb The Warning doesn’t quite scale the heights of the fab four’s epic voyage into the eclectic, it is a multi-faceted electro trip nonetheless.
Hardly surprising given Gossard’s childhood fascination with The Beatles’ ’68 self-titled opus and that his co-songwriter-in-chief Alexis Taylor should cite Prince‘s Sign Of The Times as one of his primary musical influences.
But in an age were the album is, in some circles, declared dead – or at least rushing towards extinction – this diversity has already come back to bite the London quintet on their smart, all-too-knowing arses with complaints ranging from overly tech-savvy, lacking cohesion and too much moping balladry.
True, to a point, but at least The Chip have dared to stick their necks out and make a record bulging to the brim with ideas while still planting a fist squarely in the face of winning pop songcraft.
Their declaration of intent is revealed almost from the off as Shake A Fist – a clunky battering ram of beats – is interrupted as Todd Rundgren‘s sampled vocals announce, ‘Before we go any further, I’d like to show you all a game I made up – this game is called Sounds of the Studio and it can be played with any record, including this one.’ There follows an explosion of warped techno sirens and treated vocal screams. Completely obtrusive, wholly OTT, but fantastic all the same.
These fucked up moments of inspiration punctuate Made In The Dark resulting in a restless, deeply unsettling and indeed tiring listen despite clocking in at just 53 minutes – a mere sprint when compared to The White Album or Sign…
Of course, there’s huge slabs of hook-driven grooves to satisfy those who require their pop to have more immediacy – check Ready To The Floor and One Pure Thought for readymade contemporary classics.
Then there’s the numerous heart-tuggers as Taylor plies his doleful quaver to such handy effectiveness with the title track and closer In The Privacy Of Our Love particularly soulful.
Surviving this banquet of textures and styles maybe somewhat grueling, but it’s not half satisfying.
For fans of: Devo, Lego, malevolence.
So much expectation – it’s enough to turn one to crack…
It’s hard enough remaining balanced while reserving judgement assessing Adele Laurie Blue Adkins’ debut, goodness knows how the ‘Future Queen of British Soul’ feels about her pre-ordained status.
Inevitably, having had a BRIT seemingly designed for her in advance (she will receive the Critics Choice Award) and such lofty praise showered over 19 before it even hit the shelves, the backlash and the hyperbole arrived in equal measure when it finally landed late last month.
19, depending what you’ve read is either complete genius or utter tosh. The truth is, it is neither.
Cleverly the record begins with two tracks minimal in orchestration thrusting her wholesome pipes to the fore trumpeting her arrival. The folky drip of Daydreamer is bettered by Best For Last, a piano and double bass-thrumming jazz number finding the teenager lamenting her ‘temporary fix’ boyfriend. There’s affecting moments where her skipping vocals catch and snake over ridiculously annunciated lyrics which rendered alone appear under-developed, but set to Adele’s vocal are almost inconsequential.
This pattern of focusing solely on her vocal is repeated throughout 19, and here’s the snag, for despite her quite obvious ability the vast majority of tracks simply lack sufficient interest or weight to win over the listener.
And ironically it’s tracks like the Mark Ronson-produced Cold Shoulder (which blatantly steals the clicks and strings from Massive Attack‘s Unfinished Sympathy) and the organ-infused majestical pageant of Right As Rain which stand out for their pop sensibility rather than Adele’s vocal accomplishment.
It’s only on the gloriously refined singles Chasing Pavements and closing, album high, Hometown Glory that the music and Adele’s power combine to truly stunning effect.
Almost inevitably 19 is an anti-climax. But that’s not her fault.
For fans of: Radio 2