Friday, September 14, 2007
Have done a few reviews for Music OMH this month.
St Vincent - Marry Me
Annie Clark's debut is a hit and miss affair hamstrung by the over the top production and the juvenile nature of some of the lyrics.
Shearwater - Palo Santo
Oh joy! A record full of ambition,post rock ambient textures, guitar shredding, think the majestic late period Talk Talk. Pure bliss.
Liars - Liars
Loud, proud, obtuse, arty, artful you have to love the liars.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
The National - Boxer
I was worried when I heard that The National where struggling to follow up the breakthrough success of Alligator. All the bands previous LP’s had been so fluid so natural that I feared that a creative impasse would result in a tedious mess of a record.
The first syncopated piano notes on the opening Fake Empire buries that thought for good. The slow build from a piano, low humming guitar and Matt Berninger’s gorgeous baritone is all restraint. A full minute and half passes before the first drum roll that rattles like a gun shot, another fifteen seconds before the drums properly kick in. Then a burst of brass elevates the song onto another level.
It’s a brave opening, a statement of intent. Boxer isn’t going to be Alligator mark II. They could have written huge guitar anthems and become Coldplay. Thankfully they have minted something darker, fragile, deeper, troubled and glorious. Boxer progressively unfolds as a series of stark tracks, all monochrome guitar shades, intense drum patterns and obtuse melodies. Berninger’s dense lyrics concern themselves with the ennui, the emptiness of urban life. He nails the anomie, the soulless city sickness that seeps through the cracks in the sidewalks.
For all the dark subject matter, this is an uplifting record. Squalor Victoria , is a beautiful collision, of piano, strings and drums that sound like Steven Morris on Unknown Pleasures. Start a War, all chiming guitar refrain and gentle eddy of ambient organ is Johnny Marr produced by Brian Eno. If Burt Jansch was raised in Ohio he may have written the beautiful lament of Racing Like A Pro.
Boxer is a subtle masterpiece. The band are disciplined enough to let the songs breath for themselves. They sound like a 60’s soul band covering Joy Division. Wonderful.
Tony Heywood (C)
First published in Mercury Moon