24 May, 2011

She Wants Revenge - "Valley Heart"

To say She Wants Revenge has done another copy & paste job would be grossly inaccurate this time around. But that is almost a criticism as much as it refreshing. The pool of influences include "Joshua Tree"-era U2, the Psychedelic Furs, and incredidly enough a wash of peers that suggest Elefant, Uncut, and Audra. If you are going to borrow from another band, at least they chose wisely. Maybe borrow isn't the best choice of words - perhaps homage is more appropriate. This seems like a tour album - meaning it was written on the road. Lyrically, "Valley Heart" is far less provocative, musically mired in the She Wants Revenge cutting room floor. I'm not trashing this album, but I wish there were more tracks like "Take The World" and "Suck It Up" that offer a glimpse into stretching the boundaries instead of dumping some recognizable musical flavors into the SWR soup. It's like adding some spices to 3-day old leftovers; yeah - it's still tasty but it's awful fucking familiar and it's getting a little stale. There's no fucking in an alley, or mesmerizing under-age children into sexual experimentation on this album - it's all about the bigger picture... being alone; the stars and skies are endless; broken hearts; and the stars are endless (got it the first time). If this was my introduction to She Wants Revenge, I'd say, "Yeah, they're decent - I dig their influences." And probably never buy another album. They've clearly grown-up - a bit wiser and wizened in matters of love. It's not their fault, but next comes the sore joints in the moring and eventually the "approaching 40" mid-drift gut. Let's hope their vegetarians.

07 May, 2011

Levitation - "Need For Not"

1992 was a tough year for a lot of major labels. The standard fair of artists they were offering weren’t meeting the market demands of consumers. Nirvana had set the music industry on it’s ear, and old, set in tradition labels were playing catch-up to a trend they had all but ignored. As executives sent out reps to sign anything that didn’t fit a particular mold (and thus made it alternative and big $$$) – no one probably suffered more from the over-zealous efforts than Capitol Records. They brought on scores of bands; very good bands – but few of them connected in a way that translated into money or staying power. Levitation was one of those shining bands from across the pond that no one had heard of, and thus, refused to care about. Making a leap to America is challenging enough, but to do so when your care-givers aren’t accustomed to babying it’s artists sets you up for disappointment. Capitol Records failed Levitation and so many of their other newly signed “alternative” acts by relying on MTV and the populous’ clamor for new music to be enough to build a foundation. Instead of forcing their acts down the media’s throat via radio, television and press, Capitol left the weight of making it happen on artists that only knew how to promote themselves by playing really well. Not a lot of room for success to happen if no one hears you.

Having said all of that, this album does suffer from the band’s indulgences as much as it’s label’s shortcomings. Need For Not is nothing if not a melting pot of influences. Levitation was at the hilt of the dying UK shoegaze/noise scene, and emerged among of the crop of bands that found influence in the 60’s, musically and hallucagenically. However, unlike their peers, Levitation did not resolve to be retro, progressive or psychedelic; the wealth of their influences filled the cup and spilled over. Need For Not is rife with elements of 1970’s British metal, 1980’s goth rock and new wave, and a healthy dose of early 1990’s euro pop. It’s not a stretch at all for this band to take you places musically that peers such as The Boo Radleys, Radiohead, and Oasis fear to tread. But too much can be a bad thing. With so much diversity on one album, unless your listener is a fan of multiple genres, they will feel cheated. And not many people are going to shell out $10-$15 for an album that at best contains two songs they enjoy. Thus, you’ve alienated yourself from the audience as a whole… and the only people still listening are the one’s that can appreciate what you are trying to do. If Levitation found a way to pool their influences into a cohesive, irresistible landscape – then they may find a niche as other cross genre bands have before and since. Unfortunately, the bulk of what Levitation does musically blends like oil and water. That’s not to say it’s a train wreck – honestly, their worst songs are completely enjoyable, but are unlikely to impress anyone that is unwilling to trace the footsteps from so many paths in the road. They deserve at the very least respect for treading in those abandoned genres. When harmonic balance is attained – it is stunning and brilliant. The stand out on Need For Not is, “Smile”. It is equal parts beautiful and sinister. Breathy vocals and compulsive rhythms propel this track until it reaches a desperate and pleading apex. "World Around" fires out of the gate with metal angst a la Voivod, then catches you off-guard with bridge of melody and swirling guitars. Recalling the hey day of new wave and goth rock splendour is "Resist" - a staggeringly beautiful and danceable track.

Levitation at their best are without compare. They were a beacon of what was possible; what could be unique among a wave of cut & paste peers. Though, for all their talent; all their inspiration and ideas; and all their determination - striving so hard to be different is Need For Not's undoing, and sealing the fate of this diverse band was putting faith in a label that had no clue what to do with them. It's a sad legacy for this amazing band. If you feel brave and open-minded, seek them out... until then, enjoy "Smile".