Outta time, more like...
[a]The La’s[/a], [a]Godspeed You Black Emperor[/a], [a]Elastica[/a] – 20-volume annals could be devoted to debating the exact moment of heroin addiction, tunelessness and, er, heroin addiction that was to prove the fatal ruin of these once-great bands. Some career failures, though, can be distilled down to a little less. Take for example, and for the purposes of this review, [a]The Datsuns[/a]. Their fall from grace can be summed up in three little words: Reading Festival 2003.
We’ll return to what exactly went wrong on that fateful August Bank Holiday weekend a little later, but first, let’s remember what the world was like when we first got so very, very excited about these so very, very hairy men from New Zealand who liked to stand on top of their amps, pull cock-rock poses and make wonderfully nonsensical noises about “harmonic generators” and “intermodulators”. Cue rose-tinted, Super 8 film of kids sporting electroclash mullets, studded belts and Motörhead T-shirts walking through Shoreditch in summer 2002… ah yes, back then, it was all so different. After five years of dickless Coldplay swine and big-budget American emo-angst we were practically anaemic for any kind of no-brain, no-frills, throbbing rock’n’roll thrills. For Dolf, Christian, Matt and Phil Datsun it was definitely a case of right noise, right moment.
But it couldn’t be their time forever. Last summer’s Carling Weekend was to be the scene
of their celebrated return to the UK after a year’s hiatus (journalist-speak for ‘break’). Only thing
was, there was another group of hairy men playing that weekend who also liked to stand on their amps and pull [a]Spinal Tap[/a] poses. Only these new kids’ amps were louder, their vocals higher, their trousers tighter and their tunes better. So [a]The Darkness[/a] won the day and became billion-selling rock arseholes, The Datsuns went quiet and the rest was, until now, history.
In reality, The Datsuns’ second album couldn’t be better timed; with pull [a]The Darkness[/a] currently busy cracking America and fan-bashing in LA, the coast is clear for them to regain their title as kings of ferociously dumb-shit, brilliant gonzo-rock. Only thing is, they’ve gone and made their ‘serious’ album instead. From ‘Outta Sight/Outta Mind”s subdued colour-tinted cover (which gives more than a knowing nod to [a]Von Bondies[/a]’s ‘Houses Of The Holy’) to the fact that it’s been produced by the Zep’s token boring member, John Paul Jones, this album feels more like an education than a party. Limping off with joyless single, ‘Blacken My Thumb’, it takes until track four (‘Messin’ Around’) to stumble onto anything resembling their trademark, city-flattening riffs of old, and even then it’s just the same one they used on ‘MF From Hell’ two years ago. It’s not like they’ve put all their energy into the kind of slutty guitar solos that rocket-powered ‘The Datsuns’ either – the best we get is a very meagre 22 seconds of shameless excess in the middle of ‘Get Up! (Don’t Fight It)’.
Obviously this is still the same band, it’s just that now their preoccupation with ’70s British metal finds them wandering dangerously into goblin-and-ghouls prog-rock territory – as in the theatrical interlude of ‘Girls Best Friend’. There are, of course, still some hilarious moments. Like the sexy/sexist line from ‘What I’ve Lost’ that goes, [I]”You see that girl, she’s got a pretty face and all/Sometimes the call of the wild can make you feel so criminal”[/I]. Well, hilarious in light of Dolf’s recent comments (see the interview on page 36) that the lyrics on this record are “better” than on the last one.
OK, it’s not that this album is terrible, it’s just that it’s a terrible letdown and all the best tunes (‘Messin’ Around’, ‘Hong Kong Fury’, ‘You Can’t Find Me’) are nicked off [a][/a]. Who were their backing singers last time round. Outta sight? Outta time, more like.