Loose in the Air
When you approaching an age of abject jadedness the likes of which I am experiencing, its hard to find something "new." It all ends up being resale vintage clothing purchases from the Emperor's thrift store, retooling certain styles mixed with a smattering of another to create The Latest Thing. Take the current trend in Brooklyn rock. Put the Gang of Four's martial disco through a hair metal filter, supposedly to cleanse any nascent homosexuality from it so that it doesn't bung up the demographics, and then EQ it like Dr. Dre is manning the decks, and call it garage rock. The taxonomies are as meaningless as the music, and it leaves delicate uncool souls like my heading to the hills of folk and classical music in search of something with some gristle on it.
Fortunately the NYC racket scene is in full blossom right now, with power cells like Black Dice and Animal Collective and Devendra Banhart giving folks some leverage in flying their freak flags, and the juxtaposition sometimes spawns some great little acts like The Double. Matching the stepdown transformer noise blats and burps with solid pop songwriting, sounding like if robots from the future were trying to reproduce The Cars' Candy-O but where damaged upon entry to the atmosphere. In a good way. Their album Loose in the Air (which describes the overall sound, like ashes and stray Tesla bolts shoot off around the band) opens with some knob twiddling effect pedal nightmarishness that builds and collapses around itself until you realize his is not just static, but a really well crafted ballad. Same with the obvious single "Idiocy" that follows, building a great bubblegum indie rock track out of this racket. Its sweet, buoyant stuff that gets you swinging and nodding and loving pop music again.
My favorite track, though, is "Icy" in its bubbly slightly sad bent that reminds me of when New Order was creating revolutionary music for the masses. Its got that same weird metallic sheen to it, that is tempered with the emotions of actual people that inhabit the imagined worlds of big city shithole apartments and coke-fueled club bathrooms, once they are torn by cruel life away from the neon night world and cast into that of the living. And then the slow numbers like "On Our Way" and "Ripe Fruit" document the rainy ambiance of this existence.
I don't want to portray this as some techno/rock mixup (those things are 9 time out of 10 completely dreadful things) but as ion-infused rock for electric people. numbers liek "Hot Air" trade heavily on this difference mixing four-on-the-floor dance beats with almost cabaret vocals and keys and buzzing guitar malfunctions percolating in the periphery, melding nto some thing psychedelic and throbbing, like a fallen meteor. Another great weird one is the Pavement-indebted "What Sound It Makes the Thunder" which could be straight off of Crooked Rain, with jumper cables applied. And then toward the end is the perfectly lovely echo of a piano ballad "In the Fog" the kind of thing that you would listen to strolling through the city in the rain, watching people scurry around with soggy newspapers on their heads. Closing out the record is the low-low-key instrumental "Dance" adopting a faux Weimar new world stillness the likes of which haven't been seen sing Bowie and Eno tread the same kind of ground on "Low" and the leaky dreamboat of "Busty Beasty" which rocks to and fro among electrons dispersing in Bell Labs burps and autoharp, of all things. My hat goes off to anyone throwing in an autoharp, its hard to make that sound cool, but they do it. All in all, Loose in the Air may not be the most revolutionary thing you've ever heard, their influences might stick out like glowing sore thumbs, but somehow it is beautiful and tranquil and compelling music made of this Frankenstein array. Hop on their monorail before every male model in the borough is fronting an arcwelder-autoharp combo, and the scene gets played to death.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com