By Kenny McMurtrie
February 04, 2013
This album has had a rather unfortunate side-effect. Having gone back to listen to the band’s debut from 2011 (Unknown Mortal Orchestra), which I recalled as being pretty harmless, in order to do the old compare & contrast thing, I’ve found that there’s none of the latter but that as far as comparison goes I now dislike them both in equal measure. They’re candy floss but of the most unappealing brand and II only helps to point out the weaknesses of the earlier work. Just as shoegaze has been groping its way towards the mainstream once more over the last couple of years so Sixties-steeped outfits like Unknown Mortal Orchestra have been getting more exposure too as the industry cycles through the various genres as always happens. That’s all well and good but as with all scenes there will be some also-rans and with II UMO are proving they’ve got what it takes to be one of those, just as A Place To Bury Strangers seemed to manage in their field last year.
These songs don’t even sound as if they’re being played with conviction – there’s a feeling of bandwagon jumping being done by people who’ve vaguely got an idea of what pop-psych sounds like. This I expect is not actually the case; the songwriting is just not of the same standard as the likes of Brian Jonestown Massacre, Vibravoid and other such acts. ‘Monki’ is a particular chore to get through despite some authentic sounding shimmery gurgles about halfway through. Single ‘Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)’ is probably the best track on the album as it doesn’t suffer from any faux Sixties trappings being hung on it and it has that earworm catchiness that means you’ll find it irritating you for days after a few listens to the album. Every other song is though generally forgettable – ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’ is a limp attempt at blue-eyed soul (that fails to tell us what trouble the girl in question gets into, just that she can’t be in love), ‘One At A Time’ comes across as Lenny Kravitz deliberately impersonating Jimi Hendrix for a bet he wants to lose although the chorus is of a quality that deserves better from what surrounds it.
‘The Opposite Of Afternoon’ (a choice of three things I’d say) relies on a supposedly quirky bit of guitarwork and garbled, warbly vocals to try and create whatever jolly, drugged-up pseudo Head rip-off was hoped for before the biker movie theme-tune that is ‘No Need For A Leader’ muscles on to the speakers. Produced completely differently they might have made a decent fist of this (i.e. if they’d cleaned up the sound and sung it ironically) but if The Who couldn’t get people to actively change with ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ then this effort’s worse than doomed from the start. Production-wise ‘Faded In The Morning’ shows a scintilla of late promise but it’s fleeting. All told then not a classic in waiting.