Farewell to waves

Good pipes, distorted bliss and the end of an era

By Benjamin Smith
Photo: The Irrepressibles deliver songs of “magical ship” and “glistening mermen”

2013 is already proving to be the busiest of years for your writer. So much so, in fact, that – after copious vodka consumption and consultations with the “I Ching” – I have decided this installment of “Strange Waves” should be my last. For my one true fan in Dayton (by all accounts a magical dwarf who inhabits a cupboard at Troni’s Pizza), I thank you for your patience and casual interest in reviews of slightly odd foreign records. But have no fear, my magical dwarf! I will still submit the occasional article to this fine publication. In the meantime, let’s break out the champagne and set sail.

Album: Lust Guns & Dust
Artist: Lilian Hak

Label:  Siren Music

Release Date: February 2013

Country: The Netherlands

Website:  lilianhak.com

Perfect for: The good, the bad and the gun-obsessed girl

Hak makes dramatic pop music. She’s the first to confess, via her Twitter account, that her output is, “inspired by classics, film noir and western movies.” (She also “loves hairdo.”) However, this 11-song album confirms that drama can merely serve as a colorful cloak in which to wrap less-than-stellar material. Lust Guns & Dust sounds as if it were produced by the unlikely dynamic duo of Ennio Morricone and Damon Albarn, but there’s the nagging sense that Hak showed up in the studio armed only with hastily-contrived chord progressions, “jazz hands” and her alarming firearm fixation. (Hak’s body of work includes an LP entitled Old Powder New Guns.) An artistic vacuum might explain why some Belgian guy named Ozark Henry randomly shows up to sing on a couple of tunes – and why the album’s worst track, a goddamn awful R&B monstrosity called “Happy Land,” appears twice. Good pipes, shame about the songs.

Album: Out Of View
Artist: The History of Apple Pie

Label:  Marshall Teller Records

Release Date: January 2013

Country: United Kingdom

Website:  thehistoryofapplepie.com

Perfect for: Wallflowers with face-obscuring hair

I would love to bankroll a tour of the Kentucky backwoods for this fresh-faced five-piece, just to see the bloated heads of a thousand rednecks explode upon trying to compute the band’s name. “What’s that, Billy Ray? The History of Apple Pie? HUHHHHHHHH?” And if that didn’t kill the tobacco-chewing goblins, then hopefully the music itself – simple, melodic shoegaze – would at least set their Sloth-ish ears aflame. All fantasy aside, The History of Apple Pie’s debut is fairly catchy and set to satisfy most adorers of, say, early Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine, Silversun Pickups, Lush and Ride. The band’s main attraction is the blended vocal interplay between lead singer/guitarist Stephanie Min and backing singer/bassist Kelly Owens, which gives the songs a dreamy, sexy sort of sheen. For a tease, check out the videos for “Do It Wrong” and “Mallory” on Youtube. Blurry, distorted bliss.

Album: Nude
Artist: The Irrepressibles

Label:  Naked Design

Release Date: October 2012

Country: United Kingdom

Website: theirrepressibles.com/ir/nude.html

Lyric that sums it up: “If I asked you now, will you be my prince?”

Jamie McDermott looks like a Renaissance Faire fanatic, sometimes sounds like a woman or that bloke from Antony and the Johnsons when he sings and is prone to composing tunes with titles such as “Tears (Prelude)” and “Two Men In Love.” If you are still reading this review with genuine interest, then you will genuinely like the second record by McDermott’s orchestral caravan. Imagine a more theatrical version of Arcade Fire with completely transparent relationship lyrics: “Take off your clothes, I want to see you naked,” McDermott pleads on “Pale Sweet Healing.” The vocalist and his motley crew occasionally go overboard – I recommend bypassing the obnoxious climax of “Arrow” – but you cannot help being impressed by McDermott’s range and bravery. Indeed, one needs both courage and skill to present a song about a “magical ship” and “glistening mermen” while not coming across as ridiculous, pompous or pandering.

Album: News From Nowhere
Artist: Darkstar

Label:  Warp Records

Release Date: February 2013

Country: United Kingdom

Website: darkstar.ws/news-from-nowhere

Best enjoyed while reading: “Bleep Bloop: The Decline of U.K. Music”

For the final album review of the final Strange Waves article, please allow me to say a few words about my view of post-Smiths British rock. As readers may know, I love stuff from the mid-1990s Britpop bubble. Yet I also think that 2000 was a brief, and somewhat overlooked, burst of great songs from across the pond. Among other things, that year saw excellent debut albums by Doves, Badly Drawn Boy and Coldplay, an essential “Best Of” by Blur, a surreal but scorching live record by Oasis and, of course, a certain magnum opus called Kid A. Since 2000, I have felt let down (or even betrayed) by many British bands, mostly for trying to recreate said magnum opus. Kid A has cast a massive shadow of electronica. As evidence, take the new LP by Darkstar – 10 tracks of bleeps and bloops. Man, this is boring shit. Perhaps there is a reason I have been listening to more American bands of late. Consider this a public statement to all up-and-coming rock musicians beyond the Atlantic: wake the fuck up. Don’t make me scratch my beard in bafflement. Don’t lull me to sleep. Inspire. Haunt me. Move me. Make me feel like myself again.

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at BenjaminSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com



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