Fads are as much a reality in fashion and film as they are in the world of independent music. While I can’t speak for the world of fashion, as most of my clothing is purchased already worn, and I’ve sworn off anything produced by Hollywood in recent years, I feel confident chastising the emulative nature of certain up and coming bands whose music styling feels a bit too reminiscent for comfort.
Glasgow’s My Latest Novel is just the band to have evoked my careful scrutiny and is the lucky recipient of `my latest rant.’ Just when I thought Scotland’s musicians were immune to my criticism, Wolves appeared in my mailbox, along with a press sheet proclaiming it as “one of the most singularly unique debuts of 2006…as well as one of its greatest releases.” Such shameless self-aggrandizement was sure to garner a doubtful ear from this skeptic.
Lush orchestration and a penchant for the dramatic is fine for The Arcade Fire and Belle & Sebastian, who incorporate enough original elements into their music to avoid many lengthy comparisons to other contemporaries, but in the hands of less experienced bands, may come off sounding forced. Echoing guitar arpeggios and the mandatory violin flourishes of opener “Ghost In The Gutter” swell like Mogwai at their post-rock best until the song dissolves into an Arcade Fire-like sing along midway through. A children’s choir can’t save the lilting “Learning Lego” from mediocrity, although at times the harmonies are rather engaging.
My Latest Novel tries desperately to surpass the influences it most noticeably culls from, and there are moments when an exquisitely crafted crescendo succeeds in producing chills, but Wolves by and large finds a band still searching for a sound to call their own. Lead singer Chris Deveney is a dead-ringer for Stuart Murdoch on “The Hope Edition,” which may as well be an outtake from Tigermilk. Elsewhere, the militant percussion and full-band vocal contributions of “When We Were Wolves” shows promise on a debut mostly bereft of any groundbreaking material. The acoustic strums and gorgeous boy-girl harmonies of “Wrongfully, I Rested” evidence more potential direction the band might be wise to take.
Deveney says “When we started out, we didn’t want any boundaries in terms of genres of music we played, and we also didn’t want any instrumentation boundaries either… because if you’re strictly attached to one particular instrument things can become stale.” I suppose the most obvious question in response to that statement is “Dude, where are the bagpipes?” It looks like I’ll have to keep waiting for a Scottish band to fully embrace their heritage and play those pipes proudly (My Latest Novel, that’s a hint).
The Arcade Fire – The Arcade Fire EP
Belle & Sebastian – The Boy With The Arab Strap
Math and Physics Club – Math and Physics Club