09.02.2010, Words by Charlie Jones

Odd Blood

What difference remembering to turn off Shuffle can make. It’s important to note, what with the alleged ‘death of the album’ and all that nonsense, that listening to an album play out in order can give a totally different quality to the individual songs.

Rectifying my track-order faux pas, I reassessed Yeasayer’s new long player ‘Odd Blood’ with fresh ears, so to speak, but am still not completely sold. Arnand Wilder and Chris Keatings’ vocals run the gamut of male 80s icons, ranging from irritatingly smug-sounding (most prominently on Tears for Fears-alike single Ambling Alp) to pleasantly Gabriel-esque on final track Grizelda – the latter also playing host to an appropriately Genesis-tinged melody with electronic drum slaps. Vocals aside, something about the admittedly likeable, lively dance feel of the record seems sometimes archly contrived; a little too knowing. Basically, every influence is so well emulsified into the mix that it lacks any clashing edge, any bite, and a little jarring would have given much of ‘Odd Blood’ more substance.

When good, ‘Odd Blood’ has some both inspired, and inspiring, sounds on offer. In fact, an entire record in the vein of excellent opener The Children would be no bad thing. With its crashing sounds of glock n’ clanging metal, the distorted, drawling fuzz of the vox and its general foreboding, it plays like a magical reinvention of Mercury Rev’s Goddess on a Highway, but so lounge, so delicate, that it lodges itself under the skin irreversibly. In fact, the record probably suffers from Overbearing Opening Track syndrome and later tracks seem fey and weightless when compared with such a swaggering, full-on opening gambit. It’s weighty and hefty but conversely also subtle and intelligent. Other high points include Madder Red with its sombre, self assured Middle Eastern take on Duran Duran’s Ordinary World and the Vienna beats topped with dreamy, twinkly synth of I Remember.

And admittedly a great deal of this record is really good fun. Vital, earnest, really danceable fun. Love Me Girl smoothes over the gaping chasm between old school rave and the chilling spectre of Nu-rave with its Balearic vibe and body popping rhythm – even the North American Loon rears its head amid the effects (it’s that bird-call from Pacific State, people, look it up). Har Mar cheesiness sits comfortably with style(!!!) and hustle in Mondegreen – frantic buzz and handclaps, with Nik Kershaw spiked vocals. Lastly Rome, for all its campiness, is a real highlight, conjuring up visions of looped footage of neon flappers dancing the Charleston.

Music like this is never going to be accused of inaccessibility or pomposity, and perhaps that’s my biggest problem with it – I’m a snob, with unmovable definitions driving my analysis. I like my Lady Gagas and Beyonces really glossy, and my alt pop, well, nice and ‘alt’ – wonky, scratchy. It’s all a little too slick for my tastes – think MGMT over High Places – but that’s not to say it lacks heart. To Yeasayer’s credit, much of this record could actually be used on mainstream TV, which is always handy for y’know, like, actually making some money. To me the standout pieces are not singles Ambling Alp or O.N.E (the latter being lightweight Club Tropicana calypso, which while pleasant, is crying out for a shot in the arm from a Simian Mobile Disco remix). I’d put out The Children as lead single, and Yeasayer would never get the Animal Collective-style cross-over recognition that they so rightly deserve. And this is why I don’t work in the music industry.

Read Charlie’s interview with Yeasayer here

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