Album reviews: Klaxons - 'Surfing The Void' (Polydor)
It's finally here and thank Christ, it's nothing like the album it could have been. Yay for slave-driving major labels!
No, this album is the sound of compromise. And compromise is always bad, right? Compromise is Nick Clegg and David Cameron. Compromise is an hour of Match Of The Day, an hour of Jennifer Aniston’s Picture Perfect then missionary. Compromise is ‘Forth’ by The Verve.
But you know what? Sometimes it takes a person in a sensible suit to tell you that your destiny is to make an album of planet-surfing tech-pop with Jupiter-sized choruses. Not the prog-hole MDMAlien opera, or whatever it actually was, that flopped through the Polydor Records mail-hole in the first place. Because, although it might be nice for some of us pitching our tents in little sites of artistic expression, toasting ‘creative freedom’ while licking ‘Congratulations’ 12-inches, the fact is that during the intensely laboured three years it took to settle on and release this, being told what’s what has forced Klaxons to make one of the best pop albums of the year – but still one of the most individual and ambitious.
Emergency airlift producer Ross Robinson, known for his work with Korn, Slipknot and other bands who almost exclusively appear on black hoodies sold near the front counter of HMV, has turned out to be a peculiarly inspired choice. His LA work ethic has drilled in a discipline and tightness that only heightens the album’s steeliness. A-list lead single ‘Echoes’ could afford to be nothing less than a perfect re-introduction, and, as you’ll know, luckily it is. Its immediacy isn’t a false dawn either. Just like Kaiser Chiefs did when they embarked on the post-Parva rounds to get signed, Klaxons have understood how vital it is for them now to ensure that no song has anything less than a chorus so big it’s got its own gravitational pull.
‘Same Space’ has a Star Wars stomp that ducks into a screwy electro-burble riff-chorus while James Righton sings with boy band lungs, then the madcap title track, with Jamie’s monk-chant falsetto, crashes waves of off-note weirdities. ‘Venusia’ boasts an ‘Ashes To Ashes’ lurch-gallop and Cydonian chrome chorus that marks it out as the best song on the album – and one that Matt Bellamy would melt down his gyrocopter to have written. ‘Cypherspeed’ is a Cyberman chase through The Cooper Temple Clause’s fried frontal lobes – the whole album sounds sci-fi. But, with Simon Taylor-Davies’ walloping guitar scree lancing through it, it also sounds distinctly like the work of four individuals who have transcended the genre-meld they spearheaded when new rave broke in 2007 and become a great British band.
It might have seemed as if Klaxons’ second album stop-start story could have overshadowed the record itself. But weirdly, by being serial blabbermouths from the off, the group have ensured their run of failures have been documented, digested and dismissed by the public long before this thing actually hits the shelves. As such, Klaxons have somehow found themselves with a clean slate and an album that can be judged simply on whether it’s any cop. That they’ve succeeded so well is an enormous relief, and a bolster for the argument that maybe, musically, it’s creative freedom rather than compromise that’s overrated. Maybe, if we went about locking our arty young hopes in basements for a few weeks at a time while screaming “WRITE THE EFFING HITS!” through the keyhole more often, we’d get one or two more records close to being as fantastic as ‘Surfing The Void’.
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