Tuesday, 27 July 2010

reviews: women, mt st helens vietnam band, the coral

Women - Public Strain (****)

The static storm cover for Public Strain is as good an entrée for its unsettling brilliance as the damaged symphony of first single Eyesore. The obtuse but beautiful art reflects what at times can be an uncomfortable listen – an oppressive and shady din of echoes and feedback, machinery and drones. Many of the tracks are to be praised more for the uneasy atmosphere they evoke rather than their individual qualities – for example, the opening Can’t You See groans with heavy pressure while Patrick Flegal coos amidst the disintegration, producing an effective scene-setter.

But Women can – and do – exploit an accessible pop side: for example, Drag Open drugs Sonic Youth and extracts their vigour while Venice Lockjaw is a funereal waltz, the Velvet Underground raised up from graves to woo the stars. In the synthesis of these two facets, one of the year’s most rewarding listens is born.

Out 23rd August

Mt St Helens Vietnam Band - Where the Messengers Meet (***)

A cavalier attitude to song structure, awkward pop melodies and a lead singer pitching his chords with theatrical verve: take a number, guys – half of North America got there first. Their second album improves on a decent debut, but it won’t usurp their forebearers; while it sounds vaguely like the kind of project Spencer Krug could be involved in, it would prompt concerns the lad was spreading himself too thin if he was.

Though not without ideas of their own, the Seattle five-piece spend too long tugging on the sleeves of pantheon-members like Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse to fulfil their potential. Letting the guitar sit exposed in the mix gives them a degree of differentiation, with the Dead Weather riff of At Night rattling away robustly and Hurrah stomping along nicely. But its consistent tones can grow tiresome, and their general lack of vision fundamentally undermines their talent.

Out 2nd August

The Coral - Butterfly House (****)

With Oasis deceased, another sixties-indebted Brit act has obligingly begun to proffer perpetual ‘best since their debut’ pre-release promises. The Coral clearly operate on a significantly different scale – especially eight years after that self-titled success, when hype-stores are long diminished and their continuation goes unnoticed by many erstwhile fans. Fortunately, they differ from the Gallaghers in various other ways: Butterfly House is indeed the Merseyside outfit’s finest release since their first.

The title track augments its breezy melody with vaguely eerie whispers, Green Is The Colour combines a Donovan-esque chorus with Spector-echoing verses to superb retro effect, and the slight Falling All Around You is perhaps the prettiest three minutes they’ve penned thus far. And these aren’t even necessarily the best tracks, the quintet's understated, John Leckie (Ride, Radiohead, Stone Roses) produced sixth album housing no hits-in-waiting but generating its success from an overall sense of harmony.

Out Now

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