Album Review: Klaxons – Surfing the Void
Flashback to Christmas 2007: a well-known magazine’s music writer, who we’ll call Clueless Chris, has produced a list of the top ten albums of the year.
Half his choices – including the one in the top slot – were released in 2006.
Our man complains that nothing much worth writing about dropped over the past 12 months. Clueless, for some dopey reason or other, has ignored (or, perhaps, never heard) the thrilling Cross by French DJ-producers Justice, the gorgeous country rock of Rilo Kiley’s Under the Black Light, the way-cool Desire from the way-cool rapper Pharaoh Monche, folk-prog weirdos Voice of the Seven Woods’ compelling self-titled debut…
The list of omissions goes on, and it includes Klaxons’ Myths of the Near Future, the brilliant beats ‘n’ guitars yell-athon that only recently (we’re still in 2007, remember) grabbed the Mercury Music Prize, thereby giving prominence to new rave, the media-constructed scene about which the band couldn’t give a toss.
Their interests are sci-fi and bonkers novelists like Burroughs and Pynchon, not glow sticks and fluorescent clothes.
Hyper-jump to the present day: our man Clueless is, bafflingly, still getting work as a music hack, new rave is as dead as Diana, Princess of Wales, and Klaxons have (finally) turned out their second album after having to re-record parts that the record company deemed too leftfield.
It’s even shoutier than its predecessor – and, yet, it’s less urgent. Many of the lovely subtleties that made Myths so cosmic – the sweep of Two Receivers, Golden Skans’ unforgettable wordless harmonies – are lacking, leaving Surfing the Void less likely to shoot lasers straight into your soul.
That’s not to say it’s a bad album. It’s good; sometime it’s really good.
The band has done away with the more conspicuous dance elements of the past (there’s no cover of a ‘90s house tune as there was before). A traditional rock sound is to the fore, with sprays of synth and a bass assault that sounds like a knackered F1 racing bike being over-revved underwater. (The four-string break on Flashover may lead to an involuntary evacuation of your bowels.)
The opener, Echoes, is typical of the band’s quiet-then-loud approach that includes lots of melody and double-tracked vocals, while The Same Space is a thunderous archetype of the album’s thrashing energy.
Later, Venusia ends with the sound of typewriter, suggesting that the lads are still in the thrall of groovy authors. They’re certainly still geeky for time and space, as is proved by everything from the song titles – Extra Astronomical, Future Memories – to the cover of a cat dressed as an astronaut.
So, while Surfing the Void probably won’t blast you all the way past Alpha Centauri, it’ll definitely take you for a quick jaunt among the meteors of the mesosphere.