The Listening Post: album round-up

Living Hour

Get past the somewhat awkward name and Berlin’s I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream offer a solid continental take on introspective indie rock. Vocalist Bastian Stein chooses the Robert Smith school of enigmatic mumbling, preferring melodic shape to overt message, and indeed it’s The Cure who hang heaviest over this self-titled debut, the treated guitars and Simon Gallup-like melodic bass patterns underwriting ‘Patterns’ and ‘Paint’. The poppier ‘PKD’ has a slacker Sonic Youth vibe and although somewhere in here we’re promised explorations of “the dangers of time travel” and “the search for alien life”, this is an album that offers most via osmosis. It’s perhaps an old-fashioned notion, but if you need a ‘going out record’, something to play while backcombing your hair and applying a bit of lippy before hitting the indie disco, this works just fine.

Staying on a European tip, Copenhagen’s Choir Of Young Believers return with Grasque (Ghostly International), adding a cool jazz vibe to the more orchestral pop seen on 2012’s Rhine Gold. Wearied by the promotional demands of that album, frontman Jannis Noya Makrigiannis spent time travelling and pondering his musical future. That break has paid dividends, with this third album a reminder of a time when the pop charts rang out to the perfect productions of Sade and Seal, albeit filtered through an unashamedly continental lens (hence track titles like ‘Salvatore’, ‘Jer Ser Dig’, ‘Olipiyskiy’).

‘Graesky’ may be glitchy r’n’b, but the middle eastern melody sits atop synth washes that are pure Twin Peaks via Monaco, while the hesitant Spanish guitar of ‘Perfect Ostocada’ simply cements Makrigiannis’ cultural pragmatism. Yet the air is sombre – the closing number is called ‘Does It Look As If I Care’ – indicating that the great European experiment might just be gloss without feeling, and this the soundtrack to its crumbling. With optimism replaced by weariness, it leaves Grasque as a Trans-Europe Express for the cheap flight generation.

I might be wrong but Winnipeg seems like it would be a bit chilly sometimes, so it comes as no surprise that Living Hour‘s self-titled debut (Lefse Records) sounds like it was crafted in warm basements during the long dark nights of winter. There are suggestions of the cosy sweater sounds of Madder Rose or Galaxie 500 say (the ringing guitars and refusal to really put the foot to the floor), with a similar eye to something more expansive (the wings-spread psychedelics of ‘Seagull’). Maybe they had the heating up a little high because Living Hour never quite achieves lift-off and track differentiation is a bit of an issue, with few hooks to properly get under the skin. Instead, the quintet prefer the atmosphere of eight variations on a theme, which unfortunately gets a little wearing by the end of play.

The psychedelics of Seattle’s Acid Tongue are much more straightforward: good time beat music with a fuzzy underbelly. The four tracks on their I Died Dreaming EP (Failure By Design) run the gamut from the chirpy Freddie & The Dreamers pop of ‘Lately’ to the title track’s Jagger blues. And while the garage rock boom has perhaps faded a little, it has only retreated back to its natural habitat – smoky back rooms and dingy basement clubs where, no doubt, Acid Tongue will add the fizz to your post-work Friday night party.

About Douglas Baptie (208 Articles)
Editor at Words & Guitars. Lives in Carlisle, far away from 'that London'.
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