Komeda – What Makes It Go?

(North Of No South Records / Pinnacle NONSCD65)
Author: Jyoti Mishra <jyoti@dial.pipex.com
Date: 1998/12/03
Forum: uk.music.alternative

Now, this is more like it. I’d never heard of them before but within the first two songs I was hooked on this album. The first track, ‘Binario’ starts with some Isan-y woodpecker coughs and then this crazy semi-slap bassline kicks in. Rhodri, this is definitely one track you can throw angular post-punk dancing shapes to. Stylistically, I suppose they sound most like a cross between very early Stereolab and the Cardigans. But I hate the Cardigans, which is weird cos I love this band. The songs are pretty much trad pop song forms but there’s a kind of Stereolabby fucking-around going on at the edges.

Second track, ‘It’s Alright Baby’ is simply a classic instant pop singalong. It sets your head nodding and you know the chorus the second time around. If you like any Michael Nesmith/Monkees, Beatles or Beach Boys, I can’t see you not loving this song. I’m listening to it now and it’s soooooo pop. Clipped rhythm guitar, modal piano countermelodies, woo-woos, – lovely. It reminds me of ‘The Girl That I Knew Somewhere’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and a very obscure Sedgewicks song.

Another beauty is ‘Our Hospitality’ which starts off with some sample-and-hold flurbling before the bass does a lovely corny slide in. The vocal is very Stereolabby, being a kissing cousin of that classic French smoocher ‘A Man And A Woman.’ It’s only 2.42 long and just when you think it’s gonna be da-bah-da-bah-dum all the way through there’s a crazy chromatic descent and some mad new lyrics. And all the tracks on this album are equally startling in different ways, combining ‘traditional’ instruments with electronic boogie-ing in a way that seems organic and meaningful. Rather than just bunging an old break under everything…

As you may know, apart from a few notables like Spearmint and Gorky’s, I’ve not liked any trad guitar-pop bands this year. Komeda are now definitely in that list as well and I’ll have to re-do my Top Ten. When it comes down to it, I do love a good singalong… This album is a great pop album for all the same reasons that Even As We Speak’s ‘Feral Pop Frenzy’ was: vigour, experimentation and, most of all choruses.

The Notwist – Shrink

The Notwist – Shrink (Duophonic Super 45s DS45-CD23)
Forum: uk.music.alternative

From a totally different angle, I guess this lot are doing the same as Komeda. The electronic sounds they use are far more torn and crunchy, revelling in obvious aliasing and hooting. But they mix these well with ‘conventional’ instruments. Track 2, ‘Chemicals’ reminds me most of a song off ‘Bleach’ performed by an alternate-reality Joy Division who have swapped Hooky for a singing modem. ‘Moron’ starts off quite jaaaazzzzz but get’s weirder when the beat kicks in. Imagine Lalo Schifrin played over a ‘Speak & Spell’ era Depeche Mode drum pattern. Sort of ‘Dirty Harry’ meets ‘Shout’. Warning: there is a saxophone solo on this track. But I still like it.

It’s about as close as I get to goatee territory. Overall, the tone of the album is quite bleak and when guitar appears, it’s nearly always playing sombre powerchords around a Devoesque progression (which is where the Nirvana comes in, I guess). If you’re an old goth, you’ll probably like this album. Or if you’ve got more than two 4AD records in your collection. Or if you just enjoy fairly glum music.

Where groups like isan or BoC (I hope you don’t mind the comparison, toe) at their best remind you of being a kid, that intense sunshine and soaring pointless joy, this stuff most reminds you of being pissed and lonely with vomit on your shoes. For me, then, a great album. Honestly. But not the best one to listen to if you’ve just been dumped. Makes Mark Eitzel sound like Charlie Drake. So, two out of three ain’t bad.

(And sorry if this review sounds more poncey than usual but I’ve finished a linguistics essay on register, dialect and sociolect and it’s not worn off yet…)