Friday, March 30, 2007

The View’s lyrics bring variety, flavor

Scottish band The View’s first release is a little like a Long Island iced tea: it’s a mixture of a lot of things that normally wouldn’t go together, and you can’t taste the alcohol but before you know it, it catches up with you and you’re drunk.

The quartet’s widely anticipated album, Hats off to the Buskers hit U.S. store shelves March 13, almost two months after it made its Jan. 22 U.K. debut.

“Comin’ Down’” opens the album with a barrage of cacophonous guitar feedback and messy drum beats, promptly followed by vocal near-screeching and a series of clipped-and-clean guitar chords. Yet somehow the band makes the sound work.

The harmonica interludes of “Same Jeans” add a Tom Petty-sounding element to a song that’s otherwise stage-suited pop-punk.

Fourth track, “Don’t Tell Me...,” has a sort of rockabilly feel to it, which is magnified by a blues guitar break toward the middle of the song.

Sad-and-slow “Face for the Radio” turns what should be, by all arguments, a humorous assertion into a melancholy peer observation (“He watches ‘Trainspotting’ 15 times a week thinking it makes him oh so unique”).

“The Don” is arguably the highlight, stand-out song of the 13-track album. It’s aggravatingly catchy with its xylophone tings and repetitive vocal chorus.

Lyrics like “So when you look in the mirror reflecting back at you someone that you don’t know” from “Same Jeans” are about as deep as it gets. There’s not much of an underlying psychological meaning to them; they’re straightforward and almost maddeningly oversimplified. For example, first single and fourth track “Wasted Little DJs” opens with the verse “They told me if I write this song for them that they would cut my hair for free but that’s not me no liberties.”

That’s okay — though. Half the time the listener can’t tell what lead singer Falconer is saying anyway. The other half, when words are decipherable, the listener can’t really tell what he’s talking about, thanks to his accent and the word usage differences between the U.S. and the U.K. (I still have no idea what a “busker” is).

The group from Dundee, Scotland has had no problems garnering national and European attention, making an appearance at No. 1 on the U.K. charts promptly upon the release of Hats off to the Buskers. Not to mention, tickets for its U.K. tour set to begin in April sold out within one hour. However, it has yet to make an appearance on the U.S. Billboard Top 100 chart, and its success in the states remains to be seen.

Adding to the difficulty of promoting itself in the U.S., the group’s tour that was scheduled for this month, a follow-up to its first trip to the states in January, was postponed because of visa problems — reportedly, lead singer Kyle Falconer’s arrest on a charge of cocaine possession this past summer caused the delay. The View is known for frequently opening shows for Babyshambles, and Pete Doherty’s influence expands to include recreational, as well as musical.

A reviewer for Jane magazine wrote of the album, “What’s up with all these U.K. buzz bands looking cuter and more stylish than they sound?”, but this assertion-in-the-form-of-a-question is ultimately one of genuine feminine ignorance and blatant superficiality. She also called the album a “generic mix of mainstream pop rock and Oasis-wannabe barroom sing-alongs,” which it absolutely is not.

The collaboration of Falconer, Kieren Webster, Peter Reilly and Steven Morrison makes for no generic mainstream U.K. pop rock buzz group. Albeit, given the sometimes-copycat-sounding instrumental and vocal techniques, the band’s combination of experimental Indie post-punk paired with an adherence to old and classic rock and roll undertones makes for a blissfully entertaining listen that’s never dull.

Hats off to the Buskers proves that a record doesn’t have to be groundbreaking to be good music. It’s four guys having fun doing what they love, and just happening to sound pretty good in the process.

Fans of The Shins, The Hives, The Sex Pistols, Babyshambles and Arctic Monkeys will love this album. Everyone else just won’t “get” it.

Lisa Lewis, Entertainment Writer, The Daily O'Collegian,
Oklahoma, USA, 30th March 2007


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