The 90s, for all its faults, is one of the most enduring eras of music to date*. Recently we have seen hordes of bands inspired by shoegaze, grunge and Brit-pop making tracks in the Australian music scene and overseas.
Blast, the new album from Melbourne rockers Love of Diagrams, is an amalgamation of a whole lot of things that were good about music in the 90s. It’s abrasive yet melodic, it features their distinctive boy/girl vocals, its melancholic without making you want to kill yourself, and yes, it was produced by Steve Albini. There’s just one problem though – its 2015. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with revivalism in modern music, in fact I think it’s hugely important to keep rehashing the past and injecting it with renewed energy and ideas; as long as it keeps moving forward.
Indie rock mainstays Love of Diagrams take a 90s shoegaze approach to their new album Blast.
The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with Blast. Actually, it’s a fine album. Double Negative harkens back to pre-Loveless MBV with Luke Horton’s ferocious guitars overlayed by Antonia Sellbach’s hazy vocals and battering drums from Monika Fikerle. Story Up is a vortex of live energy and Steve Albini’s distinctive production laces the track with vitriol that tears through the tracks with unmistakable aggression. Falling Down is an assault of beautifully ugly guitars and melancholic vocals that are unmistakably Sonic Youth. The track warps between tempos giving it the sense of urgency and animation that you can only get from a live take – something that Albini is revered for. The only problem is all that everything so far on Blast sounds awfully familiar.
Love of Diagrams are veterans of the Australian indie rock scene. Since forming way back in 2001, they have released four LPs on incredible labels like Matador (in the US) and Remote Control. Blast is their first on the kickass Bedroom Suck Records, recorded in stints over five years at Albini’s own Electric Audio studios in Chicago. Since their early days the band have never forsaken their commitment to making abrasive tunes where all too often, after a career spanning more than two albums, bands fall into the folly of polishing things up.
On Blast, you could pick any random point to skip to and its guaranteed to sound cool, but where it falters is in its dynamics. It’s a trap that bands inspired by shoegaze and post punk frequently fall into. Repetitive drone and dreamlike vocal refrains take the forefront while dynamics are left discarded. In My Dream is a solid attempt to rectify this with its chugging guitars and erratic drumming that channel The Breeders or Pixies. S.S takes it down a notch with its hypnotic swoon. It’s one of the few points of the album that isn’t awash with fuzz and clanging drums, and at just a minute and a half in length, it’s a bit of teaser for an interesting avenue that band definitely could have explored more.
The three-piece are well renown as being absolutely killer live, and on Blast you can see why. They are relentlessly loud and unforgiving in their aggression. The choice of Albini as producer, renowned himself as being one of the best at recording bands live, capturing their energy, seems like an obvious and intelligent one. But on Blast, it just doesn’t quite come together like it should. It’s all there; Fikerle’s manic drumming, Horton’s fuzz guitar and husky vocals that mingle, MBV style, with Sellach’s, but somehow, it all seems a little diluted, a little uninspired.
It’s a shame, if all the elements had come together, Blast would have been a ripper of an album. With music so obviously endowed to another era, more imagination would have gone a long way. That being said, if this had come out in 1991 it would been devoured and worshiped. But it’s too bad it’s 2015 and the world expects just a little bit more. Greedy bastards.
*Ed. Um.. no but please do go on!
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