Some bands tend to be better live than on record. I’ve been told Queen and Alice Cooper and the J. Geils Band all fit this description, though I haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing them. And it’s also my opinion that Menomena is such a group whose performances outweigh their recordings. Without ever seeing Two Koreas live, I’d venture to guess they are very good live, but unfortunately, they’re somewhat lackluster on LP.
This is a punk revivalist band if there ever was one. Singer Stuart Berman sounds like the sweaty, illegitimate love-child of Dave Vanian and Jonathan Richman, with perhaps a bit of Ray Davies and Iggy Pop thrown in. Guitarist Kieran Grant provides a lot of crunch and distorted torrent to the songs, and bassist Ian Worang and drummer David Gee ground the songs with simple, but effective rhythm.
When the songs are on, they are terrific. “Midnight Brown” sounds like a train about to jump the rails, with its careening guitar riff and breathless vocals. And “Diamond Geezer” has a Kinks-like observant snarkiness to it. But too often the songs sound labored, or slower than they should be.
Science Island reminds me a little of The Stooges’ first record. That album too lacked the energy it should’ve had, even if the songs themselves were strong enough. Fortunately, there’s nothing on here as self-indulgent as “We Will Fall” (though the intro to “Scared Straight” felt agonizingly long to me). But both albums ultimately suffer from a lack of oomph. I have a feeling that with, perhaps, a different producer, Two Koreas’ next album has the potential to be their Fun House, bristling with a ferocity and power they likely exude in a live setting.
The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers
The Damned – Damned Damned Damned
The Little Killers – The Little Killers