“Fall or Stumble” – Lying in States
Simultaneously thumpy and smooth, discordant and musical, “Fall or Stumble” is a shot of intense 21st-century rock’n’roll—complicated, smart, edgy, and well-produced. I knew I was in good hands from the start, when the big-beated groove established by the drums was joined first by a gentle, subtly off-kilter bit of keyboard vamping and then by a couple of buzzy, offbeat blurts from the electric guitar. Pay attention to the guitar all the way through here—the band has two guitarists, in fact, and they work together to inform the song with a searing buzz underneath and a razor-like brassiness above. Singer/guitarist Ben Clarke’s voice sounds electronically compressed—a la Julian Casablancas in the Strokes—but the effect isn’t in your face as much because of the gratifying musical texture that exists around him. And while Clarke sings in the same range as Casablancas, I find his ability to sing powerfully both with and without restraint to be more reminiscent of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke than anyone else I can think of. Lying in States is a Chicago-based band that has been playing live to much acclaim since 1999; “Fall or Stumble” comes from their first full-length CD, Most Every Night, released earlier this year on Flameshovel Records.
“One More Time” – the French Kicks
Notwithstanding the itchy dance beat and drummer/singer Nick Stumpf’s vocal resemblance to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s Andy McCluskey, “One More Time” emerges with repeated listens as far more than an ’80s retread. The synthesizer that cascades down as if from heaven in the first verse is actually more of a hip-retro sound (trip-hoppy, perhaps) than something from, say, Depeche Mode; the shining electric guitar brought in to mirror the synthesizer line in the second verse is also not an ’80s sound. Then there’s the strange, momentum-shifting chorus, which consists more or less of one repeated note, in what sounds like three-part harmony. This brings 10cc to mind, oddly enough, the second time in particular, when the voices are accompanied by the pounding of an insistent keyboard beneath the surface. So we’ve got a lot of generations of rock’n’roll at work here, to shimmering effect. The French Kicks are based in NYC; “One More Time” will be found on Trial of the Century, due out in May on Startime International.
“On Parade” – Electrelane
After releasing an all-instrumental debut, the British band Electrelane has opened itself up to a bit of vocalizing on its second CD, The Power Out. Keyboardist/guitarist Verity Susman’s singing is idiosyncratic to say the least, alternating between gruffly spat, largely inaudible phrases and wordless whoops, but the chugging energy—part ska, part surf, part punk—of the two-chord riff keeps me engaged throughout this short song. The shortness itself is interesting, as the band’s first CD, Rock It to the Moon, was notable for a number of extended, noodly instrumentals (including one that clocked in at 22 minutes). The Power Out was released in February on the fiercely arty British label, Too Pure Records.