Review Summary: Quartet's follow-up to a lauded debut is all at once imaginative, compelling, infuriating, and dumbfounding. Producing track after track of high quality production plagued by languid vocal performances, which in the end, run the album aground.
There is just something not working correctly with British quartet, These New Puritan’s second LP, Hidden
. Which is amazingly disappointing on account of, under all the lyrical wankery and vocal tom-foolery there is a seriously solid album to be found. It just seems like lead singer, (lyricst, producer and multi-instrumentalist) Jack Barnett is trying to do all he can to muddle things up, hide it from view, it is a bit of a pain in the ass. Hidden
ironically looses touch predominantly in the fact that everything is so obstructed from sight, lush, moving pieces of backing music are left in the befuddled hands of a band seemingly hell-bent on doing the wrong things at the worst times. Marred by phoned in vocals and both cringe worthy and laughable lyrics the album’s supreme instrumentation and tracking can’t do much to save it from it’s own monotony.
Saddest part is Hidden
starts out so damn well too, opener “Time Xone” is a droney, horn-filled foray into classical brit-pop, that flows effortlessly into follow-up “We Want War” a seven minute, bombastic slow burner, which is if only by the fact that the song just seems to keep building, and hammers every miss direction of Beat Pyramid
into correct form, then places in a 1-way railcar directly to Hades. It's grandiose dub-beats and off-kilter horns breath life into the hazy, washed out fuzz and hushed vocals echoing beneath them. Even, the electro-clash meets world-beat banger “Three Thousand” showcases a band at the top of their game, balancing their need to be quirky with song writing sensibility, delivering solid music with
the message, it’s just after
“Three Thousand” that Hidden
starts to get a bit insipid.
Probably the biggest issue with the album as a whole is it’s lack of any real direction, not to mention, purpose. Almost every song possess no lyrical heft what so ever, and granted weight of the prose doesn’t always equal out to its weight in album quality. But, there are also times when foreboding generalities, and vague clichés delivered in a half-assed, phone in of a performance just don‘t add up to anything worthwhile. Which is maddening, considering the music backing Barnett’s weird Damon Albarn voice meets Mike Skinner delivery, generally is vibrant, luscious, dark music, full of bombastic beats, low drones and gorgeous key fills -- not to mention the synths! These New Puritans by all means have balls, the music is absurdly abstract, while also being insanely infectious. If M.I.A. and Diplo got together with AC and Danger Mouse it might sound like what these kids are putting out here, it is some seriously jaw-dropping ***. Too bad Jack’s there to *** it all up for them. His droll deliveries of lyrics stretching little further than single words or small phrases most of the time, which he insists on repeating incessantly to the point it becomes mind numbing. The chants of “I’m in the fire-fire-fire!”
on “Fire-Power” or harsh whispers of "This is the land where corals lie"
on “Drum Courts-Where Corals Lie” turn quickly from interesting, or even danceable, to aggravating when they’ve been repeated for the fiftieth time in the same, boring, mono-tone voice. At least Iggy Pop, Ian Curtis and Johnny Cash gave us character with their limited baritones, Barnett seems to be boxing himself in on purpose, at one point expressing: ”I am not an actor/I do not know what to say.”
True, but you are a musician, and a front man at that, is it so much to ask for a little heart? Half the album he sounds bored with himself, or snarky, delivering snooze worthy verses with an acid tipped tongue. You can’t blame them for trying though, and they certainly do, if anything These New Pertains are breaking down a lot of musical borders here with Hidden
, blazing new trails if you will. Problem is, they just don’t seem to give a ***, at all.