Few artists begin their careers as instrumental groups, then change their mind and become a vocals-oriented band later on. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to Brighton’s Electrelane. On their debut, 2001’s Rock It To The Moon, these four British birds played instrumental space age pop music, sounding like some sort of John Barry Rock Explosion. But their latest full-length, The Power Out, sees the band made over to be a pop band, with Verity Susmanï’s detached vocals in front of it all.
First single “On Parade” is a brief, surf-influenced dance-punk track that’s as sexy as it is raw, with Susman shouting “I’d love to see your underwear!” Elsewhere, we see the band in a more subdued role, as on the breathtakingly gorgeous, Nietzsche-quoting “This Deed,” which recalls both Lush and Clinic. And on “The Valleys,” the band recruits a choir to sing some goth-barbershop harmonies.
Steve Albini’s production on The Power Out gives the band a much-needed sonic boost, though, as usual, Mr. Shellac doesn’t interfere with the actual performance. “Take The Bit Between Your Teeth” is a prime example of this producer-artist relationship, as Mia Clarke’s guitar is chaotic and sloppy, but loud.
Several songs on The Power Out bear a striking resemblance to early Stereolab, such as opener “Gone Under Sea” and dance jam “Only One Thing is Needed.” And much like Laetitia Sadier, Susman sings in both English and French. But Electrelane’s frontwoman one-ups Sadier by adding Spanish and German to her vocal resume.
Closing track “You Make Me Weak at the Knees” is a return to an instrumental Electrelane. The song’s sweet melody is carried by some gently-plunked piano, ending the album on a gentle, familiar note.
All in all, the band has made quite a leap from their tight-larynxed past. A new label, a wider array of influences, lyrics in four languages, production by Albini and a penchant for rocking out more sees Electrelane as a band that has grown substantially in the last three years. By this time in 2007, the band should have even more surprises in store. Who knows, maybe they’ll be singing in Esperanto.
Stereolab – Peng
Clinic – Walking With Thee
Quickspace – Quickspace
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.