LCD Soundsystem, MarineVille

Reviews from Staple…

LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem – DFA/EMI

LCD Soundsystem is the band and brainchild of James Murphy, half of production duo the DFA, whose basic schtick is creating bona fide dance music with a rock sensibility (so called ‘dancepunk’), most successfully with The Rapture’s ‘House of Jealous Lovers’ single. After creating a stir with a succession of excellent singles (including the paranoid music geek anthem ‘Losing My Edge’), LCD Soundsystem have finally released their album, and it’s completely worth the wait. The band switches effortlessly between convincing performances in a range of styles, roughly half ‘dance’ and half ‘punk’. Standout tracks are ‘Tribulations’, with its fuzzy electroclash bassline and lovesick vocals, and new single ‘Disco Infiltrator’, which is kind of C64 booty-punk. The quality of the production is, of course, superb, and, in an act of unparalleled generosity, the CD comes with a bonus disk with all the early singles.

MarineVille – Diving the Wreck – Involve

Maybe in a parallel universe, in which Alistair Parker is president, Bruce Russell Minister of Internal Affairs, and Paul Holmes flips burgers for $6.50 an hour, MarineVille would receive the recognition they deserve. Instead, the market is currently clogged with insipid, soundalike bands playing ‘kiwi’ music. And as ever, to find the good oil you have to do a little digging.

A few intrepid diggers out there will have discovered MarineVille’s excellent 2001 debut album Ready for the Dance. While it didn’t exactly catapult the band into the national consciousness, the album attracted attention in all the right places, even garnering a favourable review from the übergeeks at The Wire. It also impressed Bevan Smith, head of Involve records, the home of consistently interesting electronica from Jet Jaguar, Mandrake, and his own Aspen and Signer projects. It impressed him so much, in fact, that not only did he release their second album Diving the Wreck on his label, but he joined the band on bass.

While the release of Diving the Wreck marks something of a departure for Involve, it is less of a leap for the band. The basic ingredients of the MarineVille sound are all here: clanging, dissonant guitar jangle recalling a quieter Bailterspace; angular guitar lines working against the vocal melody; and frontman Mark Williams’ theatrical vocals. While they are often compared on one hand to late seventies New York luminaries like Television and the Voidoids, and on the other to nineties avant rock acts Sonic Youth and Mercury Rev, MarineVille are also very much true-school Dunedin Sound traditionalists, keeping the original Flying Nun/Xpressway sound alive.

Mark Williams is an excellent songwriter, one who combines ‘an ear for a great tune’ with artistic sensibilities, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of good music. In Diving the Wreck, he has produced another set of great material, delivered in his inimitable style, ranging from a breathy, sung/spoken whisper (a la David Kilgour) to a declamatory, mildly deranged, yelp (a la David Mitchell). His lyrics manage to be genuinely poetic without ever sounding contrived. ‘John Can’t Sleep’, a cute tale which imagines Lemmy Kilminster as the fairy godfather of insomnia, feels particularly autobiographical and is probably the most direct song on the album.

Soundwise, Williams has described the album as ‘spikier, punchier and more Mexican’ than the band’s debut, and – despite the conspicuous absence of maracas – this is largely the case. Where Ready for the Dance showcased the band’s languid indie soundscapes, Diving the Wreck is a little more ‘rock’ in its sonics, arrangements and structures. The first single, ‘Let’s Build a House’, for example, is a manic, churning number which picks up where ‘Zero Pilot’ on the first album left off. Likewise, ‘Children of the UFO’ and ‘Paranoid Line of the Figure 8’ are some of the noisiest cuts the band has recorded.

There’s no equivalent to the lovely french horn coda to Ready for the Dance’s ‘The Ghost of Bobby Forster’, but the slower numbers on this album are still highlights – especially ‘Kind to Me’, ‘Adventure’, and ‘The Fire’, with its delicate, effective slide guitar. The textural instrumental passages are still here, too – most notably in the gentle, expansive title track which closes the album. Live, MarineVille can sometimes sound a little self-conscious and hesitant, but the recordings on Diving the Wreck sound natural and do the songs full justice. It’s a tribute to the careful arrangements and quality of the material that this is so, in spite of the financial limitations under which it was made.

MarineVille may be destined to be archetypal cult favourites, lauded by the critics but remaining outside the mainstream, and they won’t be the first great band to have suffered that fate. But if you’re interested in hearing well-crafted, adventurous guitar music consciously building on our underground guitar heritage, then there isn’t a band that’s doing a better job of it right now than MarineVille.

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