20 June, 2008

Blast from the Past

When it comes to rock music, I like my staples. The Who (thank you anonymous user who posted that Youtube link, btw, very entertaining), Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Grateful Dead, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, The Clash, Ramones, and Led Zeppelin are the sounds that I come back to over and over again. There are other rock bands that I love, and some of these bands are contemporary in the never-broke-up-in-the-first-place sense, instead of the getting-back-together-after-all-these-years sense. Muse, Rancid, Apollo Sunshine, and ZOX are just the big favorites. The thing is, I always seem to enjoy bands that utilize that classic sound and update it for the 21st century. This is part of the reason why I like Quiet Village. They're a two-piecer from the U.K. who describe themselves as "jazz/psychedelic/surf", and it just gets better. These disparate elements are pulled together cohesively on their new album Silent Movie which is half Alfred Hitchcock film noir music and half Pink Floyd experimental. Of course, the whole is all their own, and it's a refreshing blend that's also very comforting.

When I play "Victoria's Secret" (titled to be incredibly confusing) I can see a 1960's sunshine tinge on everything. It's one great failing of my imagination that I have a hard time visualizing any time period without seeing it within the constraints of its photographic record (for some reason this affliction does not extend to the many years before photography. Those years I see in an almost high definition clarity, in my mind.) For example, any time before The Wizard of Oz (movie) I imagine as being in black and white. My grandparents' entire early life is a black and white movie in my head. It's even worse when I'm thinking about the early 1800s, and everything I visualize is in daguerreotype style. For me, the 1960s will always have that strange yellowish-green filter, which makes every seemingly genuine smile seem just a little bit more fake. "Victoria's Secret" strikes that chord perfectly, and suddenly everything is in creepy filter vision. "Circus of Horror" is the perfect follow-up. It begins like much of the best funk and soul music, with a slamming guitar riff, but that riff never ends. Things are added into the mix, like screams (can anyone say "The Great Gig In The Sky") and screeching, peeling tire wheels (I believe that's actually another riff), but that first jazzy intro is on a loop.

"Free Rider" applies choir-like harmonies to the best of the New Age mall music (You know, the guy with the long hair and the wooden flute who plays outside the store with crystals and authentic "world" music? He's playing on this song.) It's more in the psychedelic vein than the first two songs, and that makes it particularly interesting ear candy. "Too High To Move" starts off very Michael Jackson, and like "Circus of Horror", it's very repetitive. The saving grace is the spoken word introduction over jazzy pop, that melds into piano lines and horn dalliances. "Pacific Rhythm" has a reggae vibe, but the horn sections are 1970s lush; while, "Broken Promises" waltzes along in the ballroom of a beach-side hotel. "Pillow Talk" is again striding a line near Pink Floyd. The computer-generated sound effects and the rock 'n' roll guitar make this song sound a bit otherworldly. "Can't Be Beat" has an offbeat disco groove. I can only imagine that this song would be played in some parallel world where disco was completely unpopular, and therefore, extremely cool. By the time I reach "Gold Rush" I'm a little tired of these expertly planned adventures into the harmonic unknown. Not a single song on Silent Movie drops below 3 minutes and 30 seconds, and most clock in at around 5 minutes. "Singing Sand" starts the groove again, with a heavy bass-line which "Utopia" continues with an incredibly jungle/cavern feeling. It's like a stalagmite or stalactite (I can never remember which is which) is going to pop up out of nowhere, or I will suddenly find myself swinging on a vine. "Keep On Rolling" is the album finale, and it does a decent job of capturing all of the sounds described above. There's jazzy, Latin guitar; the sounds of seagulls feeding; a little static; the steady but ever-interesting rhythm section. Surprisingly, everything works.

Silent Movie has high and low points, but the album is almost always very consistent. What can be annoying, is the lengthiness and the sometimes less then enjoyable experimentation. At the same time, the experimentation that works is worth every penny, and more importantly, every moment of your listening time.

No comments: