Top positive review
13 people found this helpful
on 6 September 2008
You scarcely notice that the album has started: there's just a growing drone, then a male voice begins to speak: "The car's on fire - and there's no driver at the wheel." Gradually, sentence by sentence, he describes the collapse of urban civilisation. You look at your watch and realise that the standard length of a pop single has already passed and this is still just beginning ...
It's not party music, then; in fact, it's light years away from what's generally accepted as popular music at all. The three tracks clock in at 20 minutes or so each. Each is not a "song" as popular music has understood it, but a suite of several different sections. The instrumentation is surprisingly traditional, guitars and strings (even bagpipes) but deployed to form a drone-heavy sonic landscape more associated with electronic distortion. Voices are rare, generally spoken word sections and/or cut-ups like the one cited above; drums, likewise, occur once in a blue moon. There are long, slow, muted sections, there are occasional loud, fast sections, and once in a while there's a delicate little tune lost in the distance; all of it tied together by an overarching atmosphere of loss and regret.
I liked it: I'm always prepared to salute people wanting to do something different and break out of the straitjacket of the "pop song". If someone wants to stretch out and take 20 minutes, do away with a thudding beat to hammer home the obvious rhythm, experiment with textures rather than banal words, that's fine by me, and this gets 4 stars accordingly. I can't deny, however, that some of the more negative points made by earlier reviewers have validity. There is, for instance, no real logic that designates these four bits of music as part of one composition and those three bits as part of another: you could have placed the track divisions in totally different places, or indeed have presented this as an 11-track album, without changing a note. There's also, undoubtedly, an element of sameness about it: slow-and-quiet / slow-and-loud just about covers a lot of the album. All of which is to say that although this certainly seeks to stretch our concept of popular music, you are not going to find an hour's worth of "composed" music with an overarching logic in which one part builds on another and there's a sense of necessary consequences being explored: this is not Beethoven, there isn't that level of attention to the import of each individual note, and it doesn't repay that sort of listening. It does make an extremely good soundtrack, however, in the right mood, be that indoors or out: I have particularly strong memories of listening to it sitting in the car in an empty multistorey car park in Croydon, on one of the grey mornings between Christmas and New Year. (Come to think of it, that image might well sum up the mood of the album better than anything I've said above!) So, could actually be 3 stars for there being, maybe, less to this than there seems at first, but I'll give it 4 for being prepared to do something different. I hope, however, that I've described it in such a way as to make it clear that this is the sort of thing that divides people and anything from 5 to 1 (or less) is entirely believable, according to personal taste. I like it; I hope you will; but I won't hold it against you if you hate it. Give it a go, anyway.