Monday, 14 June 2010

reviews: devo, bear in heaven, crowded house

Devo - Something For Everybody (****)
There’s a template reaction to new material from beloved bands of yesteryear: a ‘legacy’ evaluation followed by a damage assessment. So let’s begin: with their first new album in twenty years, DEVO optimistically promise – and near enough deliver – Something For Everybody.

The only thing preventing opening track Fresh from living up to its name is the sheer number of fan-bands the new wave icons have indirectly birthed in the last two decades, with The Futureheads the first of many to be identified by aural paternity testing. “What we do is what we do, it’s all the same, there’s nothing new” they proclaim next, suggesting their self-aware sense of humour hasn’t diminished a jot – a speedily delivered “eenie-meenie-minie-mo” pseudo-rap confirms as much.

Ultimately – like contemporaries Sparks – DEVO have stayed sharp by tweaking their trademarks rather than trend-chasing, and remained oddly fashionable regardless. Verdict: no damage done. Far from it.

Out Today

Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth (****)
Just as ‘Hollywood’ no longer refers solely to a geographical place but an idea or style, ‘Brooklyn’, in music, has become a state of mind rather than a zip code. You don’t have to be born and bred there to ooze hip noughties Brooklyn-ness, as Yeasayer (Baltimore), Animal Collective (likewise), Dirty Projector David Longstreth (Connecticut), and now Bear In Heaven (Alabama and Georgia) testify.

The latter carry shades of each of the aforementioned: the repetitious urgency of Wholehearted Mess echoes Yeasayer; You Do You’s prog-bubbles recall a less eccentric Panda Bear and co.; while the unpredictable structures of several compositions share an affinity with Bitte Orca.

Superficial scene-similarities notwithstanding, Bear In Heaven are, in keeping with the Brooklyn boom’s established tendency, more marked by the inventive way they subvert norms rather than define themselves by them. Yet despite their broad palette and ambling curiosity, they maintain a firm sense of harmony throughout.

Out Now

Crowded House - Intriguer (***)

Crowded House are perfect candidates for achieving the successful reunion. With a legacy based on good, but not era-definingly great albums, the threat of tarnishing their reputation with sub-par material is diminished. It helps that Neil Finn is a career songwriter in the truest sense – his material may not always ignite fireworks, but he could knock out a catchy middle-eight in his sleep.

That’s not to say he isn’t prone to laziness: Amsterdam is an awkward low (the title city rhymed with “nearly fell underneath a tram”) – a travelogue as meandering as its protagonists, with flatness typical of this second post-reformation album’s other weaker moments. Finn’s best work always offered more than a pretty, easy-listening chorus, but inspiration now feels relatively thinly spread. Archer’s Arrows, however, is a highlight in the old-school House mould, and it has just enough contemporaries for Intriguer to at least live up to its name.

Out Today

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