Thursday, 25 June 2009

We Insist ! - The Babel Inside Was Terrible

French 5-piece We Insist ! merge genres seamlessly in order to create a sound all of their own, and yet referencing a variety of influences. At times their stop-start post-hardcore dynamics recall At the Drive-In, at their most pulsing and hypnotic, one could cite Queens of the Stone Age as soundalikes, and at their most detached, they evoke a more unassuming Tool. Yet none of these puzzle pieces quite fit to make a clear picture of the We Insist ! experience.

There is no denying that these avant-rockers are fine musicians indeed. Some of their riffs are truly killer and their effortless mingling of lead guitars with synths and sax sets them apart. But on this, their fifth album, there seems to be a curious struggle at play.

Throughout the record, their refusal to be pinned down to a particular genre or sound seems to pose an identity crisis even for the band themselves, never knowing whether to cut loose and head into a full scale freakout or tentatively brood at mid-tempo. As a result, the album feels kind of cut and paste, with no real logical flow. Songs are either gloriously mental, such as opener ‘Déja Vu’, with its blasts of brass and jarring time signatures, or melancholically slow burning (see ‘In a Maze’ and ‘Biting Tongues’).

It is almost as if they toy with letting their experimental sides truly flourish but then have second thoughts and reign it all in. This is deeply frustrating as one feels that they could have a recipe for something great, particularly in the first half of the album.

Essentially, however, the biggest issue I have with We Insist ! lies in vocalist/drummer Etienne Gaillochet. He’s not a very good singer. And I‘ll accept that a lot of bands don’t really need great singers. But, even on record, it tells that they lack a real front man. This band is crying out for a mouthpiece with some real charisma. Particularly when they take their foot off the gas, Gaillochet’s distinct lack of both range and passion is grating.

An intriguing enough release, one that reels you in all bombastic Gallic flair, but at its core, lacks that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that would inspire many repeat plays.


Friday, 19 June 2009

Faux Hoax- Your Friends Will Carry You Home

Not a great deal is known about Faux Hoax. We are informed by various sources that the name is to be pronounced ‘Folks’. We do know that they are made up of members of Gang of Four, Tracker and Menomena. So they are a ‘super group‘ of sorts, a term that can usually be construed as one that doesn‘t live up to heavy hype generation, never equals the sum of its parts and burns out quickly. Perhaps then, in the information age, Faux Hoax do well to keep things at a whisper.

This makes further sense on listening to debut release ‘Your Friends Will Carry You Home’, essentially a vinyl only single, albeit one with a couple of digital bonus tracks thrown into the bargain, which finds its true character in understated intricacies. This is true of both the lyrical content of the title track, an observational spoken word ramble about the nuances of a true friendship, and indeed, in the charming minimalist blips and guitar swells, underpinned by fuzzy basslines that drive proceedings along.

Vocals are interestingly varied across the four tracks. Ranging from the fragile, urgent monologue of the title track, offering such prophesies as ‘Your friends will call you, unshaven and scared shitless, from Texas, asking for bail money’ to the juxtaposition of one mumbling, drowsy figure and an upbeat twang on ‘Foxworthy’. This variety ensures that each track is a entity unto itself within the body of the record.

The latter is possibly the weakest of the bunch. Initially sounding like two quite worthy refrains competing with one another for the listener’s memory, the track goes nowhere in its repetition until its final third where we are treated to one and a half minutes of math experimentation. While we are to appreciate this change, one can’t help but wish they had taken this route much earlier. Thankfully, this Battles-esque vibe is maintained for closer ‘Underwood (a Type of ReMix)’ which further foregrounds the electronic elements of their sound, and even introduces brass to its ambling psychedelia.

By no means a groundbreaking release, which is perhaps not the aim, one feels this could remain a studio project, there is some potential shown. What remains to be seen however, is where they go from here, if anywhere. Their own label’s website speculatively questions whether these four will prove to be the only songs the band write. We can but hope this interesting trio get the chance to blossom rather than suffer the archetypal fate.