Review Summary: For the first time, Nadja disappoints.
Ah, the virtues of a cover album. Of which, of course, there are really none. There are really only a few reasons a band would make a cover album, and I’ve narrowed these down to a plausible two:
A) To make money.
B) To diverge from the monotony and whatnot of always having to come up with new ideas by making a throwaway cover album, mostly for kicks.
Obviously, since I doubt Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff make a whole lot considering the music they create, When I See The Sun Always Shines on TV
would have to belong in the second category, even though it’s hard to imagine a Nadja record done “mostly for kicks”. However, TV
is the kind of record that’s so implausible---if you’ve ever heard a Nadja record, you’ll agree with me that they’re not the most apt band to start going and covering sh
it---that it seems less of a throwaway and becomes almost interesting, sort of like watching a car wreck. Hell, I was even considering the scant possibility that this might even be good.
This Canadian duo unsurprisingly makes no effort to switch up their game in lieu of a weird cover selection---which includes choice cuts from a-ha, Elliott Smith, and Slayer---as TV
is, musically, the same kind of thing Nadja’s always done. To those new to the whole Nadja experience, this duo’s renown for creating droning, noisy doom metal with disparate electronica influences, and is characterized by lengthy enveloping pieces, vocalist Aidan Baker’s ghostly vocals, and ridiculous amounts of cacophonous noise. Nadja’s managed to build a sizeable reputation as one of the best experimental metal bands out there, and this is a reputation that’s assured every time the duo puts out a new album, which is every five months or so: the band’s very prolific. Your average Nadja record is frightening and beautiful, noisy yet serene. It’s great stuff.
doesn’t find Nadja drastically changing their sound, but, as I noted previously, there’s still that odd chance that TV
could be an interesting listen, if just to hear how such a band morphs indie and synth-pop into their own twisted stylings. The results are decidedly mixed. There’s only one real accomplishment, only one cover that completely triumphs, and that’s the excellent cover of Slayer’s “Dead Skin Mask”, morphing a five-minute thrasher into a doom-y dirge, one that’s heavier than anything Nadja’s ever done previously. The sloth-speed tempo and pounding, all-encompassing instrumentation is oddly reminiscent of funeral doom, which is proof that covers in no way have to sound anything like the original. On the flip side is “The Sun Always Shines on TV” (the A-ha cover). Baker’s own arrangement here simply smothers the original’s catchy melodies, burying them under waves of eardrum-crushing feedback without losing any pop charm; resulting in what’s probably the only Nadja song to date that could legitimately be considered as ‘catchy’.
Despite some songs working quite well, the majority simply just doesn’t hold up. For one, TV
is too long, lasting an hour and containing eight tracks (a hefty load by Nadja standards). Considering there’s no epic crescendos or constantly evolving twenty-minute pieces---just Nadja plodding hit-or-miss through eight covers---this hour is a chore get through. Also, some covers just aren’t up to snuff. A cover of Elliott Smith’s excellent “Needle in the Hay” is particularly embarrassing; transforming the song into a crushingly layered death-march, plodding along on a simplistic drumbeat so incessantly that it becomes annoying. Plus, it’s just weird to hear Smith’s deeply felt and emotionally bare lyrics be placed over something so monolithic. It’s not the type of song that works in expanded perimeters; it’s not an epic. It doesn’t jive with Nadja’s sound.
Other letdowns include a cover of My Bloody Valentine’s “Only Shallow”, as Baker paints that track’s lovable pink fuzz an ugly black, and thus loses all the charm. There’s also a twelve-minute cover of the Cure’s “Faith”, which is both a success and a failure: a success in that it strengthens that band’s whole insipid crybaby act into something deeper, but a failure in that it gets pretty damn boring around the eight-minute mark, becoming meandering and losing focus, sputtering out. It’s probably the worst imaginable way to end such an album.
But what hurts TV
most of all, after all those other negatives that I’ve previously referred to, is how homogenous this sounds. Almost every song is terribly alike---each featuring the same hallmarks Nadja’s become known for, besides their most important aspect, being their relentless creativity---and this bland similarity becomes taxing. As an avid fan, it’s disappointing to witness one of my favorite bands finally release something that’s bad.
Ultimately, it’s not really all that big of a shame that this album’s such a disappointment. It’s not even a complete disappointment either: there are a few good tracks here; a few moments that are as moving as anything Nadja has ever recorded. But it’s not like I or anyone else had high expectations for this, besides this maybe being satisfying as a novelty; it’s not like a cover album by Nadja is even a remotely good idea. TV
simply just confirms this.