Saturday, 15 September 2007

Myths Of The Near Future - Klaxons

Last week, this debut album from the London-based Klaxons won the prestigious and ever-controversial Nationwide Mercury Prize. To say this came as a shock would not quite be accurate, since no one ever expects the favourite to scoop the panel-selected prize, but the supposed competition between the two female voices of Amy Winehouse and Natasha Khan (of Bat for Lashes) never materialised, and instead the prize went, for the third time in four years, to an NME-championed indie boy band. While the Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand deserved their respective accolades, I'm not so sure this "new-rave" experiment does.

Myths of the Near Future is a good album, propelled by a cluster of strong singles that generally avoid any clichéd verse-bridge-chorus template (exception: the overrated "Golder Skans", and lets not mention their last single just yet), and stitched together by a few interesting pieces that definitely could not be released individually. So yes, it is an album proper, and yes it shows some innovation. But the album does not work as well as it should on the strength of the songs.

Much of this comes from the fact that Klaxons are an incredibly frenetic live band. The northern end of their breakthrough at 2006's Reading/Leeds festival was unbelievably chaotic for a band in such an early slot on a tiny stage. The fervour that they drew from the crowds headlining an NME tour earlier this year was brilliant, verging on dangerous. And they even made a success out of their Glastonbury slot, despite being completely unsuited to playing in daylight and suffering from some apparently prescription-strength psychotropic drugs. The songs on record had no chance of capturing the giddy unpredictability of their music in the live arena.

"Two Recievers" is a fine start, followed by the inimitably wacky "Atlantis To Interzone"; built around a distinctive "Weuoogh Ah-Ah-Ah" synth riff, its a fantastic, catchy piece of dance-rock. "Golden Skans" and "Totem..." are passable indie pop, and "As Above, So Below" is completely forgettable. It is followed by the terrific, surreal and unnerving erotic stomp of "Isle of Her" (say it out loud to get the pun) which is the high point of their so-called 'forward music'. Indeed, the album peaks around here, followed by a re-recording of their terrific debut single, "Gravity's Rainbow", not quite as subversive here, but with a necessary studio sheen and upped bass.

The final four tracks provide some kind of group manifesto, and it is here that the cracks begin to show. "Forgotten Works" is a cool prog-funk workout, and is followed by the pounding "Magick". Musically they're both strong, but lyrically its hard not to suspect that their J.G. Ballard-worship is a simple affectation attempting to cover their lack of song material. "It's Not Over Yet", the root of the "new-rave" tag, is a decent attempt at covering a truly awful piece of 90s cheese, and its inclusion and subsequent release as a single merit only wide-eyed confusion and the sensation that you're not in on the joke. "Four Horsemen of 2012" is brave enough to sound absolutely foul for about three quarters of its running time, but placed after such a putrid cover you'll most likely find you can't be bothered to listen to the end. If you do, you'll discover yet another despised long-silence-then-a-crap-song error in the form of a hidden track.

Its a good album, tightly played (particularly on the drums and bass) and features some deliriously unconventional guitar work. However, its hard to see it as an instant classic. Its not a Suede, a Dummy or a Different Class. I suspect its more akin to Ms Dynamite's debut, a figurehead of a scene that needs time to breathe and develop. All the Mercury Prize did for her was to kill her career where it stood. I hope this doesn't happen to Klaxons, because they are a great band who may someday produce an album that lives up to their potential. Myths Of The Near Future is not it.

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