Review Summary: Drowning In The Void.
Critics all argued over Klaxons' first record as if it was somehow an affront to music that it should win the 2007 Mercury Prize and be commercially successful at the same time. Speech DeBelle never had such cheek! And that's why we'll never give it to Radiohead, too! But buried in the discussion was something a little bit more interesting than the shallow statements about nu-rave and its appeal to the masses - a conflict between being cool and being exciting. It's fair to say - even personally not having been a huge fan of 'Golden Skans' - that the band's first record was both in equal measure, a healthy dose of dance-rock which stormed the charts at least in part and hammered synths into your retina. How to proceed, then? Well, Klaxons had an idea which was vetoed - more on that later - but the next official thing we heard from them was 'Echoes', an ambitious track which seemed to capture much of the old magic with an added dose of grandeur. But no. This is not that
In a nutshell, Surfing The Void
makes exactly the same impression as Muse's The Resistance
did last year; it strips the band of their most defining qualities and dilutes the remaining skeleton into something digestible but bloated and homogenous; no matter how strange the title-track pretends to be, it can't hide behind its shrieks and still ends up feeling horribly similar to the songs which surround it. To add to the sense of failed ambition, a number of Surfing The Void
's cuts feel like they're designed to sound almost progressive by cramming spaced-out guitars, echoed vocals and weird effects in behind every bar, but the songs themselves are quite obviously linear. And just in case you were wondering, yes; the title of this LP does suggest an album full of ambiguous, bull*** sci-fi one-liners; another thing that it has in common with The Resistance
, but instead of love, Klaxons don't know what they're saying about space
. And stuff.
is undeniably a rock album whereas its pre-decessor was afforded the unfortunate nu-rave label on the back of its dancefloor appeal, but Klaxons' new material doesn't sacrifice its accessibility in favour of anything artistically inspired or innovative. Simply dragging your old formula out for longer periods of time, removing the easy hooks and messing around with ambience doesn't make your sophomore record anything other than pretentious. Pretense, in fairness, isn't the overriding reaction to Surfing
; arguably, it's disappointment after the epic 'Echoes', but there are enough interesting guitar lines and vocal melodies present to actively enjoy this record if you invest enough effort. But there's rarely an idea engaging enough to completely capture your attention, save perhaps the piano-based end of 'Flashover' or the furious start of closer 'Cypherspeed'.
Klaxons' second LP comes off the back of a completely different sort of hype to their debut's mountains of praise; instead, it hides slightly in the shadow of a story which has their label rejecting a first effort because it was 'too experimental'. In 2010's music industry it's difficult to know quite how off-the-wall we're talking about, but Polydor should probably be careful what they wish for, as what they've ended up with is an album which, whilst unlikely to fail entirely, is likely to disappoint fans to at least some extent, and certainly won't make anywhere close to the waves kicked up by Myths Of The Near Future
. Truth be told, the album title has it right; Klaxons are surfing the waves of their debut across something quite empty, and it might be good enough for now, but they're going to need to catch a new one next time or they risk being pulled under.