Posts Tagged ‘debut’

THE POSTAL SERVICE – Manchester Academy, 18/05/2013

June 4, 2013

The standard hubbub of pre-gig chatter at tonight’s gig is even more excitable than usual, no doubt owing to the fact that tonight’s audience have been listening to The Postal Service’s sole album for a decade, with little sign of a follow-up or live performance. But when the familiar electronic pulse of ‘The District Sleeps Alone Tonight’ kicks in, that anticipation dissolves into pure joy, and everyone swiftly loosens up. Tonight is most assuredly going to be a party.

Those 10 years certainly become apparent – Jimmy Tamborello’s array of bleeps, whirrs and clicks sound curiously timid in a world still gripped by dubstep’s thudding bass.

But for all that, it’s fascinating how warm those songs still sound. From the sweeping sadness of the melodies to Ben Gibbard’s adorably nasal croon. “I watch the patchwork farms / Slow fade into the ocean’s arms,” he sighs, and suddenly it’s impossible to understand why rock music (or at least the strand known as ‘indie’) ever had any difficulty crossing over with electronica.

These songs are as gloriously affecting as anything Gibbard has composed for the guitar-focussed Death Cab For Cutie, with those softly understated loops melting imperceptibly into his typically bookish narratives. You could rarely call The Postal Service ‘dance music’ – they sure ain’t Daft Punk – but everyone present does their best to groove along, turning nearly every lovingly-memorised line into a gleeful anthem.

Two new songs have been included in the recent reissue of ‘Give Up’ – ‘Turn Around’ and ‘A Tattered Line Of String’ – but they represent the only previously-unreleased material in tonight’s set. Nothing hints at a second album.

We do, however, get Jenny Lewis duetting with Gibbard on a rapturously-received ‘Nothing Better’, a giddy Beat Happening cover (‘Our Secret’), and a brisk run-through of the track that started the whole thing: Dntel collaboration ‘(This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan’.

The set closes with Gibbard manning the drum kit stage left, as band and crowd alike coo, “everything will change”. Is this a sign that their productivity is about to increase? Or a line is drawn under the band for good? It’s impossible to tell, but at least everybody got what they came for: an intense hit of euphoric nostalgia. In that respect, The Postal Service certainly deliver.

(Originally published by Clash Music, 21/05/2013)

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BLANK REALM – Go Easy

June 4, 2013

“Will you clean up my mess again?”

Ok, so we know Richard Hell was talking nihilism. His fabled Blank Generation stood in staunch opposition to the failed idealism of the hippy dream; bathed in defeat and ruin; recognising that if it’s all for naught, you may as well do what the f*ck you want.

He was saying “get me out of here” before he was even born, although he’s still kicking around, so what would he think of 2013’s broken-down, end-of-days mindset? We’re beyond mere generational talk here: pop culture has eaten and regurgitated itself so many times that all that’s left to do is re-arrange the excremental remains in as many different patterns as we can. See what sticks – hey, guess what? Shit does. There are no new ideas, we’re constantly told. No new sounds. No new grooves. The new is fucking gone, and so often it feels like vitality and focus have gone with it – we inhabit an amorphous, flaccid blob of culture, with no defining qualities except blurred flashes of what went before. Welcome to the blank realm.

“Guess I’ve been acting kinda strange”

One of the central tenets of postmodernism was that there were no new ideas – which means that pop music in particular has been trapped in a postmodernist nightmare since the revivalist culture of the ’90s kicked in. It’s been (pseudo-)intellectualised and cemented into such an institutionalist clusterfuck that there’s no longer debate to be had – when received wisdom dominates, it swiftly wears thin, so the logical option is to tear away at it. Of course, when everything’s torn and splintered into miniscule subgenres, there’s no longer a dominant culture. Everything is murky and unclear.

Now, I’m not saying that this is what Brisbane quartet Blank Realm had in mind when they made this record (in all likelihood, they were driven by the same primal urge that drives most kids to whack guitars at volume – the insistent desire to make noise). There’s nothing high-concept or era-defining about this collection of spacey noisepop. What I am saying is that they’re a pretty accurate reflection of the age in which we live; the basic thrills of, like, whatever, hidden behind clouds of woozy fug. Narcotic yawns hidden behind guitars that sound like sloppy shit one minute, and an imploding cosmos the next. Dismissive loucheness, shrugging off the complexity of life in favour of knowing, wilfully-dumb slogans. The need to thrill with everything, powered by a recognition that it means nothing. Plus a flat refusal to give a solitary fuck.

Rhetorical question: how many fucks do you have to give for pop music to mean anything anyway?

“Gotta go to school today/Gotta learn that stupid shit/Soon as I can get a car to drive/Then I’m gonna be done with it”

Go Easy is Blank Realm’s first album, and it’s really good. Drenched in the reconstructionist rock’n’roll of Royal Trux, it veers from gaping spacerock chasms – all cheap weed and broken effects pedals – to perky, post-punk pop. They lack the studio mechanics of Herema’n’Hagerty, but the desire to rock out scuzzily is all present and correct, with equal emphasis placed on committing to the energy and surrendering to the drone. Hear the way ‘Cleaning Up My Mess’ stomps mightily through its snotty chorus before nodding out to a lazily blissful riff. “Girl, will you clean up my mess again?” Literal mess? The mess of sound? The mess they’ve made of life? That’s not answered, but it plays out as an admission of male ineffectuality as much as a terse refusal to resolve a situation. The title track is even more wracked and triumphantly lost: guitars stutter and start; uncertain and sounding thoroughly sick of it all. Meanwhile there’s tracks like ‘Acting Strange’ which pick our ears apart with disco damage and a barrage of disorienting effects, rebounding chaotically and majestically between speakers until you feel like you’re falling off the fucking pavement.

See, that’s the thrill of pop in this day and age. It doesn’t have to mean anything. It rarely does. But sometimes something comes along that seems to revel in nonchalant noisemaking; gives in to the din and just is. Effortlessly, thrillingly, brilliantly, Go Easy does that in spades. Blank Realm? I’ll take it. (8/10)

(Originally published by The Line Of Best Fit, 28/02/2013)