I am in the process of going through all of the stuff that
I’ve been listening to this year and composing my traditional
End of Year compilation. In so doing, I am running across a
lot of music that has been integral and often omnipresent to
my listening in 2003, but that didn’t get reviewed for one reason
or another. These are three albums that fall into that category.
I think the reason they never got reviewed is that, while I
adore all three groups, and while I listened to all three steadily
from point of release until now, none of them are really anything
new or different from what the bands have done before, respectively.
It might make sense to read the reviews in the order I wrote
them. Or not. Whatever.
Version by The New Pornographers
- Naturaliste by The Lucksmiths
- Red Devil Dawn
by Crooked Fingers
If you scamper over to our review of Why
That Doesn't Surprise Me, and replace all of the
specific references to the album title with Naturaliste,
and make a point to swap out song titles for new ones where
referenced, you’re going to have a basically sound description
of the latest album as well.
This album, like the others i am comparing it to, is slightly
disappointing precisely because of it's predictability. Naturaliste
does come across as of-a-pattern a little more than the others,
and maybe disappoints a little more because of it.
But on another level, one probably needs to ask, why would
bands who have already “found themselves” so to speak, and who
all have rabid fan bases who support them, make changes to their
sounds midstream? Simply to prove they can? That borders perilously
close to beat-the-crap-out-of-the-pretentious-kid for my tastes.
To make sure critics say gushy things about their “willingness
to improvise and push their own boundaries?” Fuck critics. Most
of us are on the wrong side of that same border anyway. Experimentation
and expansion of palette is all fine and good, and I’d hate
to live in a world where no one kept pop music alive
and fluid by injections of the new, but they are not ends of
themselves. Many fine musicians have churned out complete dreck
in the attempt to prove themselves more than “just a pop star,”
to the general detriment of the rest of us.
The point, I guess, is sometimes, you just want a freakin’
cheeseburger. Yes, it’s great to drop by the hole-in-the-wall
Malaysian place for some piping hot pad thai, but you’d be rather
sad if Zesto’s replaced good old number two with anything involving
rice noodles. To me, all three of these bands are basically
cheeseburgers, and while I can understand where some people
might ask, “why can’t they add spicy mustard for a change,”
I am personally fond of your basic yellow mustard in a squeezy-tipped
I believe my metaphor has run away from me. I’ll sum up with
the big sponge assignment as pay off.
Naturaliste is a solid outing by an Australian
brit-pop band. If you’ve liked anything in their previous catalogue
you’re likely to enjoy this one too. If you’re a fan of Crowded
House, I strongly suggest you give The Lucksmiths a whirl. If
you think XTC was most perfect in their radio friendly moments,
by all means, buy this album. But if you don’t think any of
those things, if you don’t like clean, guitar and piano driven
brit-pop with flourishes of wind and brass, or if you think
the Finn brothers absolutely blow, avoid this album. I give
Naturaliste three sponges. I like their entire
catalogue, and aside from a bit of formulaic disappointment,
I like this disc too. Mrs. Malimus rightly points out that previous
Lucksmiths albums were better cheeseburgers, as if they
forgot some spice this time around, but still, it’s a cheeseburger.