Tuesday, 27 January 2009

[133] Art Decade - Innocence/Experience

Joey Esposito, the comics editor at CC2K, recently turned me on to this small-ish American band - Art Decade - whose debut EP is available for streaming on their Myspace page. Thought I'd mock up a semi-review...


As a self-released, unsigned record, Innocence/Experience immediately impresses with its full sound, variety of styles and general 'progressive' bent. The eponymous opener develops from a scratchy, phasing guitar line intro into a gently grooving, bass-heavy verse and a pleasant, rocking chorus. It's soft-on-the-ears stuff. Kind of like mixing the pop-transcendence of early Killers with the slightly-fey introspection and modesty of Death Cab For Cutie. However, it is quietly radical in its structure, stretching out a post-chorus bridge into waves of echo and a real sense of space, with bass vamps, guitar samples and plaintive voices fading in and out. It is an interesting way of mixing up the 'repeat chorus to fade' trope that damns even slightly left-of-centre pop music nowadays.

The subtlety of these little works of inspiration may go un-noticed, but Art Decade's stylistic itchy-feet shifts can be equally interesting. All of the tracks are made up of disparate musical blocks, and the songs make sharp turns, evolving before the listener's ears. '2012' opens with classical guitar plucks, before erupting into distorted squalls; it eventually undulates between a yearning chorus, where singer-frontman-ringleader Ben Talmi asks 'When did I start to change my life?', and a loose jam, packed with spoken, accented quotations and mini-solos.

The common thread between these musical journeys is Talmi's voice. His lyrics don't make much of an impact, but his performances are expressive, enthusiastic and mostly engaging, allowing the strong melodies to shine through. As a songwriter, he throws everything at the wall; it mostly sticks, but listening to the songs in sequence results in a flat-line of prog-pop experimentation. The final track, 'Hope You Feel The Same', breaks the mould by stripping back the ambitious structures and delivering a more straightforward, acoustic number. The stylistic unity of the track is, strangely, a welcome change, and suggests to me that if Talmi loosened up a little and tried less hard, then maybe he could weave together collage-pop along the lines of Paul McCartney or Todd Rundgren, or art-rock soundscapes like Mew.

I was initially drawn to Art Decade due to the (possible?) William Blake reference in Innocence/Experience, but the title nevertheless captures the status of Talmi and his debut. The EP is full of youthful vigour and inspired innocence, but is in need of refinement through experience.

Check out Art Decade at their Myspace page here.

1 comment:

elizabeth said...

It's a William Blake reference, you hit the nail on the head. :D