A short while back I reviewed the recent William Control album, and concluded that while it showed some definite promise, it ultimately failed to live up to the sheer loftiness of many of its influences: Namely older-school “goth”, and the “darker” side of the original post-punk era. Anyone who knows these genres as well as my misery-happy self knows darn well that it’s the British, not the Americans, who excel at this style of music…so perhaps it’s no surprise that it’s the debut album of an English band named O. Children (after a Nick Cave song, ‘natch) that actually succeeds in fulfilling such promise.
To be sure, there’s some more contemporary influences noticeable in the band’s sound – “Smile” and “Radio Waves”, for instance, sounding a tad Interpol in parts, and the unlisted bonus track definitely evoking the also-great (and also English) Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster – but on the whole the tracks on this album, and their frankly sublime arrangements, could easily have been written back in the late 70s/early-to-mid 80s (the inarguable Golden Era of music, fuck you all). As well as the abovementioned Mr Cave, O. Children instantly, and effortlessly, brings to mind such classic gloom-pop acts as Sisters Of Mercy, The Cure, Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, Fields Of The Nephilim, Joy Division and Siouxsie and – more to the point – her Banshees. Perhaps my biggest surprise herein was the revelation that the lead singer, and main songwriter, is a black gentleman named Tobi O’Kandi…this not exactly being a genre of music renowned for such frontmen! While The Horrors’ Faris Badwan fits neatly into the stereotype of the tall, lanky, paler-than-pale goth singer of old – not through any fault of his own, of course! – it’s great to hear such a tremendously deep and resonant voice coming from a fellow you couldn’t easily mistaken for an anemic albino.
And there ain’t nothin’ wrong with O’Kandi’s backing band either, even if they do look more “the part” – albeit in a slightly more modern, Horrors-y kinda way – as the arrangements and performances on this album really are just FUCKING PERFECT. I shit you not: The “sound” on this album is as good as any record ever released, period. Astonishing production, powerhouse beats and drum sound, doom-drenched guitars and keys, and the kinda bass sound that would make Kim Deal (of Pixies fame) proud. Oh, and the album artwork just happens to be f-ing marvelous also.
If I have but one criticism it’s that some of the lyrics are a tad on the “ordinary” side, but having said that, it has its definite moments (love the anti-sentimental sentiment of “official” closer “Don’t Dig”) and contains one of my hands-down favourite lyrical/vocal combos of recent years: Imagine the words “Now dry your eyes / Make a smile and go outside / When there’s nothing else to do / Find the fun inside of you” sung in a register which evokes Peter Steele of Type O Negative far more than it does, say, The Spice Girls (whom I love, incidentally, but I’ll save such girly gushing for a more appropriate forum)! This may not sound like everyone’s idea of Musical Heaven, but it’s certainly mine, and puts this album right alongside The Horrors’ “Primary Colours” in the “best mopey British album of the last decade” stakes; and believe me, there are a good deal of people out there for whom these are very high stakes indeed. Fucking majestic.
© Michael Bowser, Music Vice
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