Review Summary: “I know that it’s all been done before, it will all be done again”.
Until the end of time, the debate concerning originality in music will rage on. Some will find it too disconcerting that Christina Aguilera’s latest LP sounds suspiciously like Lady Gaga... Who sounds like Madonna, and so on. Meanwhile, others won’t give a toss that Sum 41’s ‘Chuck’ rips off any number of rock bands. Those who stray from being hypocritical on the subject are rare... Almost robotic in nature. It all comes down to the individual listener and their musical preferences at a specific point in time. Yet another release which will test one’s thoughts on the issue is ‘The Golden Age of Knowhere’, the debut album from Californian dance-punk quartet Funeral Party.
Expecting the barrage of criticism which will inevitably come, the band (who were named after a song by The Cure) lace the LP’s opener with knowing, critic-baiting lyrics such as “I know that it’s all been done before, it will all be done again” and “Same old shape with the brand new sound”. Wisely, said opener ‘New York City Moves to the Sound of L.A.’ is an absolute belter of a song which any critic would be loath to castigate. Opening with the coolest of all percussive instruments; the cowbell, this energetically raucous cut is a supremely crafted exercise in controlled chaos. With its buzzing guitars and outstanding rhythm section, it excites as much as any debut single in recent memory. Astutely placed as its successor, the funky disco bass grooves of 'Car Wars' displays Funeral Party's secret weapon; the ability to get even rockers up and dancing. And just when you think you have it pegged, none other than The Mars Volta's Omar Rodriguez-Lopez crashes in with a rip-roaring guitar solo.
Strangely, that solo is one of only a few times when the guitar is front & center on 'The Golden Age of Knowhere'. This is by no means a derogatory comment however, since Kimo Kauhola's superlative bass-lines are prominent throughout, while being expertly mixed and produced to drive each track. Undoubtedly the most divisive member of Funeral Party will be Chad Elliott, whose consistently yelping punk-like vocals may eventually grate on some, after initially impressing with his youthfully exuberant energy. In that sense, this album is front-loaded, with a tendency to get a little repetitive towards its end. An acceptable amount of variety is infused into proceedings though, with some subtle synths here and sing-along chants there (3rd single 'Finale' has both). On what is predominantly an up-tempo and high-octane offering, the comparatively slower 'Postcards of Persuasion' & ‘Relics to Ruins' are interesting, despite requiring some fine-tuning. Meanwhile, the one-two punch of 'Giant Song' and 'City in Silhouettes' adds some indie-pop flavor via jangly guitars and layered vocals.
At a similar time last year, Northern Irish Indie-pop trio Two Door Cinema Club released their debut LP 'Tourist History'. A consistent, immediate, enthusiastic, likeable and catchy release, it missed its deserved plaudits due to its dated and derivative nature. Much the same strengths and weaknesses can be applied to Funeral Party's debut, since memories of early noughties post-punk and garage rock will come flooding back. 'Where Did It Go Wrong"' is one of many tracks that will bring to mind The Strokes, 'Car Wars' borrows from The Rapture, manic 2nd single 'Just Because' rollicks along like The Hives, while 'Youth & Poverty' channels The Killers. It's definitely not the most innovative of releases, yet it's so darn fun to listen to, one cannot help but get caught up in its celebratory nature. In a sense, 'The Golden Age of Knowhere' is the perfect party album since it has something for everyone. And while it will most likely work better in a live setting, it still makes for one hell of an excellent record.
Recommended Tracks: New York City Moves to the Sound of L.A., Finale, Giant Song & Car Wars.