Avalanches : Since I Left You

Cool? Sure, whatever. Brilliant? Undoubtedly.

When The Avalanches were interviewed by [I]NME[/I] a couple of weeks ago, they balked at suggestions they were the coolest band in the world. ‘Since I Left You’ is, after all, an album constructed from hundreds of snippets of obscure songs no-one’s ever heard of, a reflection of an adolescence spent trawling nerdishly through second-hand record stores, of endless evenings dedicated to listening to music rather than getting laid or shooting smack.
But then, ‘Since I Left You’ is proof that while being a vinyl junkie might not make you a teen idol, crafting a joyous, kaleidoscopic masterpiece of sun-kissed disco-pop definitely will. Just like those Daft Punk boys – two more geeky beat-spotters whose music has elevated them to the status of fashionista demi-gods – The Avalanches have found their irreverent, bittersweet take on pop turned into one of the albums of the year. Like, how cool is [I]that[/I]?
Well, pretty cool. Only, as far as the ‘band’ (sample sultans Robbie Chater and Darren Seltmann, plus their mates) are concerned, this record is two years old, and in many ways a diluted version of the ‘Gimix’ mix tape – an hour-long cut-up of tracks as diverse as The Smiths’ ‘The Boy With The Thorn In His Side’ and Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ that The Avalanches created as the perfect party soundtrack, and which became the blueprint for ‘Since I Left You’. Copyright laws being what they are, the finished product is a different beast, with subtler samples, a slicker flow, still crazy but not as brilliantly shambolic as its redecessor. The Avalanches, always dodging those ‘cool’ tags, are already bored with it. They don’t believe the hype.
You, however, should. Because when all is said and done, ‘Since I Left You’ is simply awesome. Some of it – like the title track – would be at home in a ’50s musical. Some of it sounds like The Beach Boys soundtracking [I]The Love Boat[/I]. Some of it, like the Nancy Wilson-filching ‘Flight Tonight’, is quietly soulful. And then there’s the moment in ‘Close To You’ where they drop a section of Kid Creole And The Coconuts’ ‘Stool Pigeon’ and you just think, ‘What the fuck’s going on here?’
Well, what’s going on is this: the benchmark-setting apogee of the genre-mashing spirit that’s been taking over pop since DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing…’, a heartfelt remix of some of the most shamelessly ecstatic music of the last 40 years. Their sonic palette is larger than Daft Punk’s – so while ‘Electricity’ or the astonishing ‘A Different Feeling’ do that sublime filtered disco thing as well as their French counterparts, ‘Since I Left You’ also steals from De La Soul, The Osmonds, Wu-Tang Clan, 5th Dimension and Madonna. It takes you on a trip (there’s a loose travel theme), plays Dadaist tricks with sound like all those Napster soundclash terrorists, and serves up a final 15 minutes of breathtaking, sugary, disco-soul drama (hey, listen, isn’t that a snatch of Boney M’s ‘Ma Baker’?) that’s
really quite unlike anything you’ll have heard.
Cool? Sure, whatever. Brilliant? Undoubtedly.

Christian Ward

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