Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Metaphysical and Mediocre (Lotus Plaza and Arcade Fire CD Reviews) by Alison Ross

Lotus Plaza - The Floodlight Collective

I really just cannot get enough of the Deerhunter/Atlas Sound/Lotus Plaza triumvirate. Sure, it's trendy to like these bands du jour, but they are so fucking GOOD that I am willing to risk ridicule to assert my idyllic enjoyment of them. They offer a mesmerizing mesh of post-punk, ambient and motowny sounds. There is nothing audaciously pioneering about them, and yet, they all sound so compellingly fresh, and possess manifold qualities that bespeak endurance, unlike so many current bands.

Lotus Plaza is Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt's solo project, wherein he takes the ambient side of Deerhunter to its gloomiest and even most gossamer extremes. His only album, 2009's The Floodlight Collective, is omnipresent with a cavernous clarity and vocals that can only be described as charmingly naive. For Lockett, though 27, looks like he's about ten years younger, and his stage presence is calmly introverted. He exudes a sweet shyness that is belied by his very overt talent. His voice is a quasi-baritone that slyly intertwines with the music, which makes for a hypnotic hybrid of atmospheric sounds. But naturally, the only problem with the album can also be considered one of its major assets. As mentioned previously, the music has a wispy, gossamer effect that entrances even while it eludes. The sounds float around dreamily as though attempting to flee their very solidity. This is music at its most metaphysical.

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Whereas Funeral, Arcade Fire's debut, evinced a gritty eloquence and Neon Bible, the band's sophomore effort, exuded a messianic bombast, the band's latest effort, The Suburbs, attempts to bridge the two approaches, cleverly downplaying the bombast and putting more of a sheen on the grit. The problem with the album is that it doesn't seem to make enough use of the qualities that make Arcade Fire so fiercely invigorating - the violias other sundry unorthodox instruments, and just the overall bohemian gypsy flair that has come to define their presence. I appreciate that they did not continue in the overwrought vein of Neon Bible, for as exciting as some of those songs were, finally it added up to something that verged on exasperating. I also like that they have tapped back into the impetuous rawness of Funeral. But I would have to say that The Suburbs falls short of those two previous releases because it seems so self-consciously rendered. There are some great songs on the album, and I like the Abba-esque "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)." But it seems that they are taking themselves far too seriously. I mean, the pitfalls of suburban life as the overarching theme is just trite, and the music at times sounds like a lazy mishmash of their signature sounds, rather than an updated incarnation of their considerable sonic strengths. It's not an abject failure by any means, but nor is it s soaring success. It's somewhere in between, and I am pretty sure that the "mediocre middle ground" is not where Arcade Fire wants to be. Their live show, however, is fantastic.


1 comment:

LR said...

Arcade Fire's first album grew on me, through repeated exposure in caf├ęs in their hometown, Montreal. At first, I had no idea I was listening to the trailblazing band everybody was talking about, until one day I said to the barista, "Hey, what is this CD? You play it all the time, and I think I've heard it three times today..." (They tended not to change the music until someone spoke up, being kind of distracted by other stuff.) It became the soundtrack to my existence, like it or not. So I chose to like it. Neon Bible, though, I've never even listened to, beyond telling a colleague at the student paper to please turn it off. Suburbia? Even less interesting to me as album fodder than the contents of the Arcade Fire's man-purses. They had their time and place, and frankly, I think it's over. The "Montreal sound" is played out. Let's find the next hipster hideout and glom onto that already.