25 August 2009

The Exploding Boy: “Afterglow”

Written by both SlowdiveMusic and Juju

A little behind the ball, summer holiday and all, we finally sat down to take a listen to “Afterglow” (28 July 2009, available as import in the USA). The Exploding Boy obviously takes much influences from the 1980’s post-punk / gothic scene. And the name of the band should instantly bring up images of the Cure, as the band took their name after the b-side of 1985’s “In Between Days.” Much like the Cure of the early 80s, along side bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, and Joy Division, not to mention some of the proto- and early shoegazers, like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, the music is a melodic exploration of darker emotions... a constant feeling of an undertow trying to drown you in your own emotions. Unlike these bands, though, there is more in way in incorporating acoustic guitars and a very Swedish pop sensibility.

This of course is not the 80s, but we have seen a constant surge of music influence by the post-punk era of the 80s. The Exploding Boy's claim to fame is that even though they can generate a massive undertow of emotional power, their pop sensibility saves the music from death and gloom. Instead, just like many of the great post-punk gothic songs (“A Forest,” “Israel,” “Love Will Tear Us Apart”), the music will have you on your feet doing whatever it is you do: mosh, dance, jump, skip … And even though they are using every old trick in the book, why are they relevant? Let’s give a few reasons. This is one of the few bands that can take elements of gothic rock and new wave, mix it up all together, and not have it sound awkward or trite. This is one of those international bands that have accepted the fact that to rise to global recognition, they must sing in English; however, they have not sold out their craftsmanship to be carbon copies of what is happening in the UK, USA, or Australia – they have definitely not lumped themselves in with other post-punk revivalists. (Reality, the best bands that have had that label thrust upon them do not allow themselves to get slammed into a pigeonhole.) Lastly, they are not out there with gimmicks or trying to capitalize on the coattails of current scenes; instead they are out there working on their own, diligently. They rather allow their craftsmanship to speak for itself – and speak it does.

The album opens with “The Right Spot,” which will instantly hit a chord of fans of “Pornography.” Beautifully layered keys, the expected melodic repetitions, vocals that seem to float free of the music, the song explodes in a controlled orgy of frustration, that invites the rest of the album to just flow in naturally. “40 Days,” one of the singles, follows, keeping the tempo at a fast pace, right into “London,” another single off the album, which is one of those songs that demonstrates that the band is willing to take risks. This is not the most radio-friendly song on the album, shifting from minimalist, hollowness to eerie, guitar driven gothic rock, it demonstrates that the band is more interested in getting recognition for their song writing abilities and not joining some hit parade, hype machine with radio-friendly, prepackaged music.

Unlike other bands that rely heavily on electronic equipment, there is never a feeling of, “Yeah, that’s a drum machine.” Instead, the band has used electronic equipment to fill up the lusciousness of the soundscape, while avoiding clichéd, unnatural sounding electronic rhythms. Even in tracks like “What You Want To,” where it is obvious that a drummer is not present in parts of the arrangements (no snares), it does not detract or distract from the music. The standout track of the album would have to be “Intervention.” The song is driving and itchy, getting right under your skin from first listen, as the lyrics “I’ll never let you down…” are sung over and over again towards the end. “Desperado,” with its electropop bassline, is the albums biggest surprise – more new wave than gothic, you are definitely going to want to move about like a good goth kid.

The band has most definitely refined themselves from their debut; actually, they have refined themselves to sounding like veterans. The music flows naturally on this album, which is amazing for a sophomore effort – no slump here. No tongue in cheek play between music and lyrical content, both work for the singular effect of making you feel. And though they stay true to a new wave style of playing guitars, it is actually refreshing and ingenious in a field of musicians that are trying to consciously add to the sound of post-punk. Actually, while shaking your bum to this album, it is going to hit you just how refined, infectious, and ingenious this album really is.

Track Listing:
1. The Right Spot
2. 40 Days
3. London
4. Heart of Glass
5. See You
6. What You Want To
7. Intervention
8. Desperados
9. Let the Right One In
10. Explodera Mig

Keep up with The Exploding Boy on MySpace.

Check out the videos for “London” and “40 Days” on the Ultra Chrome Viemo Channel.

The Exploding Boy - London from Ultra Chrome on Vimeo.

The Exploding Boy - 40 Days from Ultra Chrome on Vimeo.

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