Album Review: The Naked and Famous - Passive Me, Aggressive You (Fiction)
Radar Award winners demonstrate that isolation can result in a glorious melting pot of pop perfection
Core duo Thom Powers (fittingly, like a superhuman Mr Yorke) and Alisa Xayalith (approximately 334 points in Scrabble) embrace guitar-gilded electro pop with an unrefined, outsider’s poise and artfulness that set them apart from the identikit ’80s revivalists rolling synthfully off the major-label conveyor belt the past two years. TN&F look as much to [a]Pendulum[/a], [b]‘Swastika Eyes’[/b]-era [a]Primal Scream[/a] and modern-day [a]Radiohead[/a] as [a]Hurts[/a], and advance the cause of poptronica several leap years as a result.
As the priest said to the prostitute, the trick’s in the juxtapositions. A shimmery, [i]Top Gun[/i]-worthy cut like [b]‘Eyes’[/b] might seem retro and mawkish if it didn’t follow [b]‘The Sun’[/b] – a pop [b]‘Everything In Its Right Place’[/b] laced with skittering beats, Hendrix guitar squalls and electric piano, looped onto a monotone whisper-rap. Boasting synths as bright as [b]‘Stars’[/b] and an arc-welding buzz-guitar riff, [b]‘Young Blood’[/b] could see them tagged as this year’s [b]‘Kids’[/b] copyists… were it not followed by [b]‘No Way’[/b], a gossamer acoustic number that explodes into a starburst chorus of epic fuzz that sounds like [a]Sleigh Bells[/a] trying to soundtrack Avatar 2.
The desperate rave-rock thumper [b]‘Spank’[/b] slithers in on cranky guitars and feedback; [b]‘All Of This’[/b] hobbles its otherwise massive potential for heavy rotation with blatant swearing; [b]‘Frayed’[/b] coasts itchily along on a beat made out of dial tones. There’s an organic texture, depth and colour here so often lacking in the machine-tooled world of production-line pop. It’s as if TN&F have been made up of all the rough edges smoothed off every major chart hit since 1984.
Their refusal of all things feel-good only adds to the stylistic tension. There’s lots of mental anguish, psychic bruises and “Tearing at the seams” on [b]‘Frayed’[/b]; their most ecstatic hit tune, [b]‘Punching In A Dream’[/b], concerns violent nightmares; and at the very least [b]‘Spank’[/b] details a global pandemic, at worst a zombie apocalypse. [b]‘The Sun’[/b] is all paranoia, recriminations and the terror of lost narcotic hours, while closer [b]‘Jilted Lovers’[/b] teeters into all-out psychosis, with Alisa’s sublime coo cracking: “Voices in my head multiply/I am such a mess”. A classic case of ugly and beautiful: TN&F’s passive melodicism and aggressive innovation clash in a dazzling blaze of psych/sonic fireworks.
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