Tuesday, 27 November 2012

reviews: benjamin gibbard, breathless, waves of fury

                                                     Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives

Benjamin Gibbard - Former Lives (**)

If the key to unlocking former lives is regression, Ben Gibbard’s solo debut is perfectly titled: there’s scant sign of progress or advancement in these 12 tracks. Jettisoning the light experimentalism that’s characterised recent Death Cab for Cutie releases, Gibbard offers in its place a comparatively bland collection cobbled together over an eight-year period.

A handful of relatively-strong cuts struggle for air: for instance, Teardrop Windows evokes Teenage Fanclub to decent effect, while Bigger Than Love overcomes its sickly slickness thanks to Aimee Mann’s soulful vocal contributions. But these are very much the exceptions – on the opposite side of the scales are the flavourless mariachi undertones of Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke); the insufferably wispy and wet lyrics to Lily; and the featureless plod of A Hard One to Know, which resembles Rilo Kiley on autopilot. Even these low-points aren’t catastrophic; they’re just a long, long way from their creator’s finest work.

Out now

                                                         Breathless – Green to Blue

 Breathless - Green to Blue (***)

4AD founder Ivo Watts-Russell is a big fan of Breathless, mentoring their latest opus and describing bandleader Dominic Appleton as his favourite living male vocalist. It’s a shame he didn’t sign them, really – perhaps if they’d been part of his illustrious mid-eighties stable (and certainly, their lightly-gothic, melancholic dream-pop would have fit in nicely amidst the likes of Cocteau Twins and Ivo’s own This Mortal Coil), they’d have a more befittingly prominent public profile.

Yet this oversight has advantages too: chiefly, it perhaps means that the fact they haven’t changed much in thirty years won’t be noticed by newcomers, wooed by their reverb-soaked style for the first time. Green to Blue (emphasis on blue) is an unwaveringly forlorn listen, and at seventy minutes, is possibly more funereal glumness than anyone needs in a single sitting. But it’s nevertheless an enveloping experience, one that deserves to kick-start a wider (re)appreciation of the band’s oft-overlooked talents.

Out now

                                                         Waves of Fury – Thirst

Waves  of Fury - Thirst (****)

It doesn’t take long to get a handle on Waves of Fury. A few seconds of distorted piano ease you in to opener Death of a Vampire, then BAM! – a wall of sound floods the speakers and starts firing off melodies unapologetically modelled on vintage rhythm and blues and its branching family tree: northern soul, garage rock  and proto-punk, smothered in fuzz and dripping with attitude.

Vocalist Carter Sharp shouts, sneers and wails over a dense bed of chugging guitars, stomping rhythms and warm brass, and despite overflowing with touchstone reference points – The Stooges, Louie Louie, Geno Washington – their four to the floor energy and snappy melodies never come off as recycled or ersatz. Rather, the impression is of a band with an acute understanding of their chosen musical lineage, with every horn parp, handclap and howled yelp expertly positioned and hitting its target.

Out now

No comments:

Post a comment