posted on November 16, 2007 11:25
A review of the album 'Applause Cheer Boo Hiss' by Land Of Talk
Review Snapshot: Land Of Talk waste their bountiful talent on formulaic Indie rock - only some moments save it from the faceless obscurity it could have unfairly consigned the band to. Call this a missed opportunity rather than a disaster, a mere pit stop on the road to greater things, but Applause Cheer Boo Hiss simply isn't an interesting or engaging record.
The Cluas Verdict? 4 out of 10
Full Review: The Canadian indie scene has been in full swing over the past few years, with legions of bands emerging from the country and onto bigger things. The Dears, The New Pornographers, The Stills and of course, the Arcade Fire have made an impact all over the world, suggesting a vibrant underground thriving with talent coolly beckoning the music press toward them. Land Of Talk are the latest band poised to break through to mainstream attention. The question isn’t so much if they will make it, but rather if they warrant success. This release (originally an EP but with some extra tracks bringing it to album length) sends mixed signals regarding the answer to that question.
It all begins promisingly enough. The guitars have that post-punk rigidity to a tee, the bass is melodically interesting, and the drums blast with barely-contained aggression. But after that, things seem to fall flat. You see, every song is written to the same formula. That’s right - Applause Cheer Boo Hiss sees these same basic elements retained for every song. Of course, this doesn’t suggest a poor album in itself, but that’s forgetting the lack of real songcraft – many of the tracks seem to prattle on and on without direction; it’s almost as if the mere presence of the elements above should be enough to leave the listener astounded. Thus, the record sounds sapped of energy, without passion or zeal. Adding to this problem are Elizabeth Powell’s vocals, which simply don’t fit in with the aesthetic presented; that’s not to say they’re bad per se, but rather unsuited to Land Of Talk’s style as a cohesive whole. So while the music consistently treads the garage rock path, Powell weakly sings against the cacophonous backdrop; the generous double-tracking drawing attention to the problem rather than solving it.
On the other hand, some of the songs are brilliant, particularly those that depart from the prevailing formula. Despite the somewhat questionable lyrics (“Look at those girls so young, so young/Still piss their pants”), “Summer Special” shimmers with a catchy melody that befits its name. “Street Wheels,” however, stands out because of its cool minimalism; with the slow tempo helped along by prominent bass and glacier guitar, Elizabeth Powell’s vocals truly fit with the music, a rare feat on this record. Such moments occur occasionally throughout the record, offering tantalizing glimpses of what Land Of Talk are truly capable of.
Overall, then, it’s clear that Land Of Talk have the potential to deserve the same attention as the preeminent Canadians mentioned at the start of this review, but Applause Cheer Boo Hiss simply isn’t an engaging listen. There are some interesting moments, but the songs rarely reach above competent; in fact there isn’t enough to sustain interest in even this short release. Sounding like any band with its roots in the garage-revival of the early 2000s, the playing is sufficient but bland, the vocals listenable but misplaced. However, while the band’s ample talent may be underutilized here, who’s to say that it won’t be the foundation for a masterpiece in years to come? We can only hope that further releases will see the band progressing beyond formulaic composition – only then will their music befit their technical ability.
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