Monday, September 2, 2013
Princeton Remembrance of Things to Come. An expatiation on the concept of prettiness. We've spent a lifetime admiring Paddy M for understanding loveliness, for embracing it and documenting it throughout his life and music. Princeton are not so old. They were an indiepop band from a large city. Now they are more ambitious, enough to match their origins. This is texture. A repeating motif, layered percussion, parched falsetto and meaninglessness all in a swirl. It's pretty. Pretty is pretty. The strings grow to a gentle cacophony and then his voice, very Ruby Suns, falls into place and it's emptiness on tape. Did their fancy friends with the designer paraphernalia object to their sweetness and cause them to move their preferences to icier climes. This record is Finland or this record is Lapland. Second track, their indiepop skeletons betrayed, a looping keyboard line and some twinkly accompaniment, the drummer had a conference call. Repetition is meant to be hypnotic. There are loads of people who will make claim that their favorite Spacemen 3 record is Playing with Fire, but they lie. Or they are dull. Sure the three gospel tracks are earth shatteringly revelatory but only most especially when looking back through your best mate's Spiritualized endorsed mirrored glasses. Princeton probably own Playing with Fire. But do they understand, does anyone really, that it was a dress rehearsal for Recurring? And what have Spacemen 3 to do with this? Nothing at all. That Sonic Boom was a child of wealth is immaterial. It's something more reminiscent of a Baxendale record actually. It's still cute. I suppose they are wealthy and hang out with Nora Jane Struthers and make comment on her saddle shoe blog and they are precociously talented. This is dreamy and vague and pleasant and what it lacks in drama it makes up for in precision. But the first Princeton records were for love and falling and sharing that feeling with friends on pop tapes and this is not. This is studied isolation and the Super G. It's meant to be sophisticated and so this may disqualify my own ears. Daniel Barenboim dismissed modern music makers as people attempting communication more than music. And perhaps he is correct. A great deal of importance is placed on lyrics in popular music. Princeton's lyrics are suburban travails writ microscopic and are easily waylaid among our greater concerns. While someone will hear this record in a record store and love it immediately I can't imagine they will spin it at home except when they are alone wishing they were somewhere else. The most glorious pop music is for reveling, for choosing over going out, for the experience of pop music itself. This is for the soundtrack of being anywhere else but here. Pitchfork and real reviewers will comment on the lyrics, and they will dismiss the record because of it. Can you break out of the indiepop ghetto and move in more cultured circles with a sampler and a Casio SK-1 preset or three? Bob Wratten was not successful even with the championing of Everett True. This is the Field Mice gone house music. But this is 2012, or it was, this is 2013! We're much more savvy connoisseurs of pop music. We have Miley Cyrus and Grimes and Alice Glass to inform our sensibilities and allow us to live as adults do we need Princeton? We also have Ruby Suns and Discovery and there does seem to be a small cottage industry of bands seemingly indebted to the Beta Band and Bitmap and 64 bit graphics and vacuousness. Paddy Mcaloon spoke of strophic song construction in Uncut where the music does not change from verse to chorus and it fits storytelling and vignettes perfectly but Princeton are too young to have lived and their souls are too antiseptic fro them to have anything meanginful at all to contribute to the frontline of human emotion. It's remarkably taut and economical. Did they hint at this on the last record? No. But there is Kisses you see. There is music for Holding Teeth playing at the moment and it has achieved some sort of enchanting groove, twinkles and dazzle have made up for the vacant lead vocal. I don't mind wealthy people. Would that I possessed wealthy friends I would turn them on to this because it is music for those with means. This is for racing in European autos with formula one tuned suspension and the signs racing past your window pasted on with umlauts and leather panted models advertising the next Arling & Cameron show. It is all about layering and crescendoes and on records that attempt to achieve bliss in this manner it is about gently maneuvering air currents and sound waves and trimming wavelengths deftly to not upset the balance of the room's atmosphere and here they are most effective. Scalpels have been wielded. If Auburn Lull made dance music it might sound like this. I begin now my involuntary leg waggle. First rule of not being a real record reviewer, (1) read other reviews while you are writing an entry on the very same album. I am reading a review now that claims the first Princeton record sounded a lot like Vampire Weekend. Hmm...and then he goes on and on about how this almost sounds like Owen Pallett. It does have strings, loads and loads. Owen Pallett is a marvelous human being and his vocals in the Gigi record are sublime but he's never been one for me as a solo artist. I can appreciate his own strain of genius which is colossal but his music doesn't fit my own soul's template. This is closer. There are horns, there are mantras made into vocals, it's almost, but not quite, as if they have a copy of Screamadelica as a hidden track in the soundtrack of their conscience. Inside of their heart plays music with soul. But Bobby Gillespie really means it. if he could he'd plough the same furrows as those on the frontline at the great fast food struggles of 2013. But when people compare music to bands such as Primal Scream they often go awry or say you want to compare the Raveonettes to the Jesus and Mary Chain because they have a bit of distortion but you end up being silly with egg on your face and all down the front of your shirt because the Jesus and Mary Chain made soul music and if you are soulless and make distorted music you end up sounding like the Maryonettes or indeed the Raveonettes which is cruel but they sound wonderful and their music makes me want to move to somewhere where music hasn't yet been invented. Poor Labrador records. They lack cachet. The new Club 8 record is astonishingly lovely all the same and I can't wait for anything from Sambassadeur soon and they did once release a record or two by Sound of Arrows but the Maryonettes are really not good. Now it is a bit more fully realized, the electric keyboards sound as if they were recorded in the garage. Their garage must have diamond plate floors, ceiling fans, a hydraulic lift, maybe a microbrewery for the kids? It's also very short. Forgettable. Next track, Andre, metronomic chimes and his voice is in smoothed out indiepop mode. It's still indiepop kids that will truly understand this- no? I know indiepop kids are desperately conservative musically but this is hardly revolutionary. Princeton have invested in a sampler or seven and they looped their cool sounds the same as Chris Knox has been doing since 1981. But the voice is so very pleasant and I wonder in between the notes whether his speaking voice is so poised. What is his vocabulary like? To which side does he part his hair? These are the inspirations that come from this very "pretty" music. More strings, perfectly placed in the mix, it is impeccably assembled, and then the move back to the verse which is mechanistic and in the 17th century and discovering the clockwork mechanism of everything in life with a vital force breathed into it at the beginning but Princeton caught an ill breeze and it sounds a bit asthmatic. I love it, sure. But I have very low standards. I have vicarious ambitions for these young men, clearly they are talented and they have constructed a gorgeous record but will your younger sister trade in her roller skates for a copy? Even with the factory aping cover art? But imagine this album in 1983. It would have sounded world changing, the european chill ambiance, the minimal sentiments(very Talk Talk) and the knowing pretentiousness of perfection tuned sharply. But now the world is so very small. My recurring theme. If I want to find out everything about Princeton the band, the university, the township, the seminary, etc...it is but a few clicks away. Click once and I will load a youtube clip of them describing their favorite records growing up and not be surprised that they loved Bell Biv Devoe and that they wear v-neck sweaters in the summer time because they are thin, on second click I will discover the value of the home they grew up in, on third the summer they spent with Josh Hartnett making sailcloth, etc... I was looking for upcoming rock and roll shows here in Denver because I am a rock and roller for certain and came across the RiotFest with a who's who of 90s has beens on the bill from Blink 182 to Rocket from the Crypt and down near the bottom of the roster is listed Stars. Imagine the music of Princeton mixed with the wit of Torquil from Stars? Sublime! If only evolution could occur within the span of a lifetime, I would breed these twin boys in Princeton and their gorgeous music with the charms of Canada. I do not want to pay 89 dollars to see Stars. But Byers, Colorado is lovely if you are a paleontologist or a funny car racer, and you should all come and embrace the Colorado aummer which has only just arrived. While browsing the website for RiotFest I also noted that somehow Alternative Press magazine is involved and while, most probably, that magazine has plumbed the same depths as Spin now does it was an historically important periodical during the days when you had to write witty correspondences to record labels hoping they would throw in a lyric sheet for an Able Tasmans record, a Rodan button, or a kind word for your penmanship. And you would write because some proto-blogger in 1993 compared some band you never heard of to the Smiths because they mentioned Philip Larkin in a lyric or called some shiny new thing the new Stereolab because they bought a farfisa but never learned how to play it. Uphill both ways my friend. This track is amazing. I may have to change my mind about this record, it may, in fact, be the greatest record ever. This is Louise and it sounds new and original and daring and gorgeous and all of the things you long for in life. Is it my own eternal sunniness that soured me on this record at first? I can recall the puzzlement when first I was listening to it and now it sounds fresh and exciting and my spirits are lifted. This benighted country has a new savior and it is the twins in Princeton. We thought we were meant to have twins not so long ago but there is only one heartbeat. My wife has two heartbeats at the moment and so the layered percussion could be a wombedelic interpretation of existence. Clamouring for your Heart. It started off as a small dream of a romance and now the looping has been layered and they have these cathedralesque group vocals and its a bit mesmeric and sparkly and my involuntary dance spasms are acting up once again. This is dance music for the head. I have a friend that is a DJ for a club night here in Denver and she might play this track and be very successful or she might opt for the new Minks record instead. Coming soon - my new conversion to the charms of Captured Tracks. Second to last track, very indiepop. How do they decide to keep this track as a tiny little indiepop track, polished only slightly and the others turn into attractive dance epics? This is really very nice as well. I am convinced, this is a wonderful experience. Perhaps sound is important after all. Here the strings support the chorus and turn this from filler to endearing and hauntingly remote. His vocals have a narcoleptic quality, wan but crystalline, the same as a frosted early morning in November just after the time change when we conserve the days to save them for summertime. Last track, falsetto, he sounds constricted, it does not feel effortlessly effeminate. Twinkles, a female voice in accompaniment and an exiguous arrangement and it's very close to perfect. Spacemen in prayer.