“Surfing The Void” – ‘Klaxons’
It is not to say that I’ve never been caught-up with ‘Klaxons’, it’s just they’ve never blown me away. Their music can’t be pigeonholed or categorised in one swift, fell swoop – every time I listen, I’m hearing something new; like a game of Tetris. A higgledy-piggledy mish-mash of assorted shapes and colours stuck together, sometimes hitting the mark, but more often than not, just building on top of one another in a disillusioning mess. On occasions, it’s real hard not to think of Britpop, and I’m easily repelled. These accented lyrics are flung in your face, discombobulating music roaring in the background, together with a feeling like you’re falling in a never-ending swirl of psychedelic sixties tie-dye and fast-tracked clocks ticking over hours instead of minutes…
“Surfing The Void” doesn’t overly impress me – another wrung on the ladder – another notch up from standard. When I think of ‘Klaxons’, I think oh no… and it’s been an epic struggle ever since not to just turn away in disgust. A short-lived album, its out-with-a-bang mentality still prevails…
For those of you unfamiliar with ‘Klaxons’, the band consists of “Jamie Reynolds” [bass, vocals], “James Righton” [keyboards, vocals], “Simon Taylor-Davies” [guitar], and “Steffan Halperin” [drummer] added back in ’07. Originally formed in ’05, the fundamental qualities of their music can be found in bands like ‘Bloc Party’ – just, ‘Bloc Party’ do it better. Those elements of Britpop creep in like a bad smell, those chunky, chop-and-change choruses, those hello-guv’na! accents: all of it conspires to drive me wild with insanity…
Levelled off at around forty-minutes, it’s over before it’s even begun. The album itself is like a descent into chaotic rhythm, instruments pressed against the mike, lips seemingly wrought around the handheld in a claustrophobic, four-by-four environment, echoless and monotone. So even when an instrument drops out, it doesn’t really alter a song’s amplitude, it just hollows it out a little giving the impression of silence rather than silence itself. By the end of the album, everything is clamouring together in an effort for control, and it just sort of ends. Bluntly. Anticlimactically.
There was hope for the album yet: “Echoes” honestly had me going. Even as I write this, I’m not really sure what grabs me. Pop-like in its attitude, there’s distinction to be had in between its choruses, while the sound [after listening to something like, “The Suburbs”, for instance] is refreshing. The way everything conforms crescendo is marvellous – compared to other tracks, like “Valley Of The Calm Trees”. But it’s like a shot of tequila – one after the other ain’t too good for you. The album pummels you track-after-track to death, the accent just kind of builds and builds, and if that doesn’t kill you, the craziness will.
“Valley Of The Calm Trees” is really, anything but; everything is happening so quickly. It’s hard to wrap my head around any single instrument, as the percussion goes in one ear and out the other, as the synth organ bounces away happily in the background, while the lyrics echo every which-way direction and everything else joins in for the jolly heck of it. Just the same, there isn’t too much of any one song in particular – like ‘Klaxons’ knew that after, perhaps, seven minutes of this musical tirade, their listeners might get bored.
Fifteen minutes in, now, you find yourself wedged between “Valley Of The Calm Trees” and “Extra Astronomical”, in a dark place called “Venusia”, another stand-out track, but I don’t know why. Perhaps because I like the name Venusia [as ‘Klaxons’ phonetically pronounce: Ve-noo-sha! to rather hilarious extremes]. The girly-highs of “Venusia” yet again rank this in one of my love-hate songs, managing to captivate me on the grounds of WTF and head-bop. When your head starts moving to a song your ears hate, you know you’ve got conflicted interests; when you start whistling in the shower, or repeating the phrase: “Ve-nooooooo-sha!” over and over again, you’re in a very sad, sad place. You just don’t know it yet.
“Ve-noooooooooooooo-sha!” [cue: *typewriter click-clack]
Then, when you hit “Extra Astronomical”, you’re helplessly stuck in the web of ‘Klaxons’. Love it, hate it, there’s no turning back. The tolling guitar, the anything-everything explosion, the lyrics: “Celestial… Catastrophe… Orbiting… Machines… Entropy… Evaporates… Abosrbing the… Obscene*”. It’s a headache listening to it, over and over again, like gibberish and raving nonsense.
By the time we hit the characteristically-long finale, “Cypherspeed”, you’re what I like to call Klaxon-drunk. The result is a mind-numbing experience physically akin to drunkenness – you’re overtly loud, obnoxious, arms and legs twitch helplessly in the aftermath of explosive percussion, and you wish you had a drum-kit to belt out your frustration. You know how some people sleep to music? I’d like to see someone sleep to this. At around the five-minute mark, it’s just as much a Will-it-blend? of synth-scape noise and raving lyrics, with the amplitude stuck at very-loud, and the utterance of cypherspeed [whatever that might be] recurrent and infectious.
And you want to know what the really strange thing is about “Surfing The Void”? After a while, you begin to like it…
Reviewer’s Pick: “Echoes”
Stand-out Tracks: “Echoes”, “Valley Of The Calm Trees”, “Venusia”, “Extra Astronomical”, “Cypherspeed”
The Enantiomorphic God