Review Summary: Originality often falls casualty in side-projects.
Producing work parallel to your main musical project can mean one of two things: you either wish to expand the range of your stylistic scope, experiment, venture in unexplored directions, or you’d rather stick to your strengths and deliver something familiar, tried and true. It appears that by means of collaboration a trio of musicians now titled Muzz found a way of compartmentalising their interests in splitting off of their main courses with going the smallest distance from the said familiar.* Due to their musicianship commonalities, previous repertoire and a shared penchant for this specific kind of music I was fearful that the collaboration will very likely exude newness as only fusion of caterpillar, catered pillar and a cat or pillar can. Now my fears subside and mere despondency presides.
If anything is a change of pace, it is Paul Banks’ lyrical content. His writing is not as nonsensical and Dadaistic as on any of the Interpol records; you can really sense the seething middle age crisis. But Interpol won’t release a new album in a while now and Bonny Light Horseman was probably a one-off thing, so Muzz have to be the kings regent of sloppy sleepy rock-isms. In an effort to sound – I believe – hypnotising or at least attempting to convince you of their instrumental maturity, every song seems more repetitive and saccharine. It does not matter that “Evergreen” sounds like a late nineties bedroom indie rendition of late two-thousands Interpol songs or that “Broken Tambourine” has the melodic substance of a nursery rhyme slowed down 500% (remember that Youtube trend?), Muzz will make sure the songs seem like they go forever with unnecessary instrumental passages or maddening repeats of choruses.
Rare is the occasion that this structure of eternal recurrence to a point of fatigue bears fruit. “Knuckleduster” is a stellar atmospheric track perfectly capturing each member’s adroit talent. Lyrics are some of the clearest and most poignant on the album, telling the story of Paul apparently reuniting with an old acquaintance who – tragically and irresponsibly enough – has not changed since their youth, “Making all the same mistakes again”
. And the chorus swells to emotional climax. Repetitiveness is virtue here, as the increasingly intricate instrumentation build into something enrapturing. One other such cut is “How Many Days”, in which Muzz finally become masters of the subtlety they tried to convey, which in turn enslaved them all the way until this point. Arrangement is minimal elevating fragility of Paul Banks’ voice, as opposed to dulling him down even more. Josh Kaufman’s buzzing guitar solo adds disorderly psychedelic tinges, furthering emotion and dolorous mood of the song.
Occasional separate flashes of brilliance in hazy waters of needlessly tenuous dread are not enough to save you though. Attempt at dreamy atmosphere turned sleepy and tired. If this album were illness, it’d be narcolepsy. In fearing to venture even an inch outside of their shared comfort zones, the Banks-Kaufman-Barrick trio have achieved a uniquely uneventful project. Their undeniable musical talents were corrupted by compromise and the end result is them shaping their creative into a beige wallpaper: dull and soulless.
*Funnily enough, Paul Banks is no stranger to unseemly collaborations outside of his comfort zone. Does anyone remember the ill-conceived Banks & Steelz?