Review Summary: Kraftalmostwerks.
I just listened to ‘Costal Grooves’ by the one man band Blood Orange, the one man being Dev Hynes, and I didn’t even notice it had begun again (my player was accidentally on repeat) because I was typing other stuff. I don’t know if that means the music was good or bad that it became a soundtrack to what I was typing. I now am asking myself in my head, “Why am I not excited about this?” and asking myself, “Why did I expect to be excited?” I was looking for something new and found out this wasn’t it. It’s just not old either. And the album may be titled ‘Costal Grooves’ but it really feels more like an all-niter spent crusin’ the city streets of LA or London, possibly causing mischief.
Right away I felt the sound of Blood Orange harken back to the classic new wave electro sound put out by likes of The Dream Syndicate and The Adventures. And there are definitely pinches of Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, and the B-52’s mixed in. And Dev Hynes at times sounds a tad like Robert Smith of The Cure and Ric Ocasek of The Cars, which makes me want to listen to either of those bands right now. Other times he sounds like a toned down Prince in vocals and phrasing. This is the highly frustrating thing about having heard TONS of music, you hear all kinds of influences and start longing for that music instead of what is currently playing. It also makes it hard NOT to get biased and jaded and nostalgic to the point you disregard the entire album as a cheap knock off of other acts.
Unfortunately much of the lyrics get lost in the sound and thus become something of a Cocteau Twins experience, but that isn’t bad per se. Maybe I’m just not paying attention damn it! And since I am stubborn about going blindly into an album I don’t read the lyrics beforehand. But I shouldn’t have to should I? A good musician will work on singing clearly and being heard, right?
And all this new wave nostalgia is good and bad; good because I like that sound here a lot, bad because it is not really new and exciting. I mean I could just go listen to Kraftwerk and Men Without Hats. But I suppose the target audience hasn’t heard this sound before. But isn’t the target audience anyone who will listen to your music? Now, I could certainly see myself thinking it was classic new wave when I made my first forays into the genre but since I know my new wave music roots all the work here would fade away into blah if the guitar didn't save it all. For without that high noon western twang this would just be a poor man’s new wave revival, musically speaking.
For example the track ‘I’m Sorry We Lied’ has a driving back beat like The Nails ’44 Lines About 88 Women’ but the lead guitar calls to mind Link Wray, The Ventures and other sounds of surf guitar gods. And the combination works to create a pleasing harmonic cohesion that is both relaxing and hyper. My head bobs nicely on the tracks, ‘S’Cooled’ and ‘Sutphin Boulevard’. And all the songs have some nice rich spacey layering and subtle surf reverb. And the album maintains that feel through most of the album creating a pleasing but not to adventurous sound.
And this leads to the first time I have listened to an album and wanted to both love it and loathe it, probably so it would be easier talk about; a load of praise or a load of scorn. But I don’t love it or hate it. I like it. It sounds like a lot of indie-pop that is hip right now and gets shoved at me on YouTube and the radio.
Let’s just say it doesn’t have me at Hello, but depending on how the second date goes I may give Blood Orange my phone number.
I’m Sorry We Lied