Tuesday, October 16, 2007

more house-cleaning: Apples In Stereo, Arcade Fire

A little more house-cleaning, big news soon etc.:

The Apples In Stereo, New Magnetic Wonder - The first time I've checked in with the band since 1998's Tone Soul Evolution - a listening choice semi-reluctantly foisted upon me by an ex-girlfriend that proved about 2/3 solid. Still, I could never escape the sense that the AIS are the most pastiche-ridden band out there: Robert Schneider always seems more excited by the option of perfectly recreating a particular pop mode than in giving it a new gloss or tweaking it even in the slightest. Seems like hypocrisy on my part, I know (I'm the man who's enthusiastically endorsing The Broken West; what can I say, that sound appeals to me more than this), but it's just not exciting. Here as before, Schneider's at his best in either full on excitable-puppy-dog mode (perfect opener "Can You Feel It?") or inexplicably melancholy ("Play Tough," "7 Stars"). The rest of the time, something always seems to be missing: see "Open Eyes," a would be 5-minute epic stranded somewhere between The Verve's histrionic psychedelic guitars and large string arrangements and the coke-addled sneer of latter-day Oasis. Plenty to enjoy here, but little that sticks in the mind; it all sounds too familiar.

Arcade Fire, Neon Bible - I'm gonna come right out and say it: Arcade Fire are the Coldplay of indie rock, which is not intended as the diss it probably sounds like (remember, I like Coldplay). Seriously, listen to the opening minute of "No Cars Go" and tell me how it's substantively different from the riff or execution of "Talk." Add to this a proclivity to think of emotional gut impact as more important than melodicism and pretty terrible lyrics (Chris Martin is a thousand times worse, but "Mirror mirror on the wall/show me where the bombs will fall" isn't far behind), and welcome to the most "inspiring" band of the mid-decade. As a band, Arcade Fire remain uniquely talented: they have a ferocious unified attack and distinct approach to instrumentation that understands how to integrate, say, a trumpet into a song and make it sound as natural as a guitar line. Another plus: "Intervention" is basically a gimmick, mixing an acoustic guitar to the same volume level as a church organ, but the song is solid enough to transcend gimmickry. They're not bad, really they're not, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with. But they're also not a fully developed band, as many people seem to be convinced: they're a band with potential, one that needs to think more about hooks and less about repeating the same riffs over and over with increasing volume in the hope that energy will be generated, and definitely one that needs to lay off the overly-emo lyrics. Like everyone else, I've heard these guys have a shitkicking live show; I can't afford to find out, unless someone wants to make a PayPal donation.


Anonymous Folco said...

"one that needs to think more about hooks and less about repeating the same riffs over"

Say what? I like hooks, but this is the best aspect of NEON BIBLE, and the reason it's superior to the debut. And songs like "Black Mirror", "Keep the Car Running" and "ATB" are awesome because the propulsive beats and repetitive riffs and melodies become hypnotic and tense, not because they build toward climatic explosions. (although my favorite on the record, "Ocean of Noise", does get a big climax, sort of).

Once they get rid of the sickly ultra-melodramatic shit like "Intervention" and concentrate on refining their krautrock instincts, they'll do something great.

I agree about the instrumentation thing, though I'd appreciate if they'd fire about half of their staff, or at least feed them some tranquilizers. And stay away from church organs.

Also, what have you found at the end of the rainbow, bud?

4:57 PM  
Blogger Adam Villani said...

They're the band that made bombast cool again, and good for them. I think Neon Bible is great, and shows a lot of progress from their first album. Church organs rule. What do you guys have against them? Lyrics, I really don't care about. Paying attention to lyrics is for suckers.

1:30 AM  
Anonymous vadim said...

Folco, you've gotta be the only guy on the planet who thinks Arcade Fire are a krautrock band in gestation. I'd prefer that version, honestly.

7:04 AM  

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