Review of the new Neon Indian Record, With Bursts of Pop & Punk Goodness by The Cardiacs and Battalion of Saints
Alan Palomo is all of twenty-seven years old. As a frame of reference, when I was that age, I spent countless afternoons drinking leftover keg beer, taking chip shots with a nine iron off of the down slope of my friend’s front lawn, trying to get whiffle balls through his front door. Translation. I was not this ambitious, yet wearing the skin of Neon Indian, Paloma, a Denton, Texas artist has re-drawn the lightly regarded rules of electronica by effectively dissolving them in a dreamy drugged out wash of hard blotter acid and dishwasher soap.
Say what you want about the emergence of chill wave (a frequently vilified movement, for songs such as “Glitzy Hive” that to some, come across as the weak sum of their sampled parts) but it is perhaps the truest interpretation of how modern/pop music should sound to “these kids” now. On his latest record of three, Vega Intl. Night School, Paloma riffs in his usual Eighties-worship-cum-sample-savant persona and the result is a busy body patchwork of delightfully dense layers of dance tracks and lyrics sung in his sultry Price-inspired vocal style. The heavy production hand wielded by Paloma doesn’t feel, well, heavy. It feels right on point.
So many of Neon Indian’s songs lack depth (by that I mean, an acute emotional depth) in fact, you might say that Vega Intl. Night School is a consciously detached record, unless you go in for hedonistic bliss as an orienting emotion. These songs just don’t seem to have the time. Instead, Palomo breaks hard dance on tracks like “Annie” and “Bozo” that stutter over a series of abrupt hip-hop break beats. This whole mess evokes an outdoor, urban feeling as though it’s native environment were out from a shoulder slung boom box. Some of the album’s second half, while it lacks an object, evokes a stormy, uneasy feeling, tracks like “Baby Eyes” and the glitteringly chaotic “C’est La Vie (Say the Casualties)” that contrast the previous buoyancy. Otherwise, this is a party mix tape disguised as something else. Leave pretension behind, spin and enjoy.
COME ON, GIVE IT A CHANCE.
There is absolutely nothing predictable on The Seaside from The Cardiacs a reissue of their seminal underground 1984 record that put art-rock/producer Tim Smith and his band on the map. The eccentric tone sets off right away on the opening track, “Jibber & Twitch” as jumpy a nugget of pure British pop as you’ll ever experience. That’s the operative word with The Cardiacs, really, experience because the party never stops and you’re forced into an active listening place.
The guitars all over The Seaside (an album that has been re-issued frequently throughout The Cardiac’s career) are nothing short of virtuosic, with keys delivering mood and tone. Smith is a poet and a master verbal acrobat, with a dryly surreptitious sense of humor, blowing out in full regalia on “A Lovely Day” which feels like a carnival trip taken on a long string of strong psychedelic drugs. The core elements to The Cardiacs (first known as Cardiac Arrest at their outset in 1977) is bouncy, progressive punk/ska hybrid, demonstrated on the danceable “A Wooden Fish On Wheel” and twisted to a darker tone on “Nurses Whispering Verses” which feels like the outright paranoid delusions of a man touched by madness.
The sheer lack of conventionality on The Seaside render it a make or break album experience. You are either going to adore Smith and company’s quirky sensibility, or you’re going to turn it off a few riffs in, which would be a shame because like a nervous kid arriving at the Friday dance, it’s not what he does before intermission that matters. No, it’s what he does after, and when The Cardiacs blow in with “Is This The Life” which sounds straight off of Pornography by The Cure, all the awkwardness is gone. See? He’s got grove, and is a pretty damn good dancer.
LISTEN TO IT AND LOVE IT.
The San Diego, California hardcore quartet Battalion of Saints has been around since 1980 which is a veritable eternity in the punk scene, even when considering the decade hiatus somewhere in the middle there.
The band’s longevity is especially impressive, considering how fresh and brimming with fist-to-the-chops confrontational punk rock they still sound, as evidenced on their self-titled 7″ single newly released on Southern Lord Records. The three songs (none even getting a glimpse of the three minute mark) are ripe and characteristically ferocious, from the racing, urgent “Bombs” to the crumbled, pure adrenaline Misfits bass line that lays out the intro on “Nightmare”.
Although sun has set on the halcyon days (a reality everyone faces, kid) the Battalion of Saints still feel like a force to be reckoned with and vital pulse on the scene they helped spawn.
RECOMMENDED FOR HARDCORE PUNK FANS.