27 July 2010

O. Children: "O. Children"

Imagine for a moment you could mix up Bauhaus, The Cure, Joy Division, and Sisters of Mercy, and throw in a smidge of a few other things including a new wave sensibility… welcome to the world of O. Children and their eponymous debut (12 July 2010). This young quartet was (seemingly) born out of the ashes of Bono Must Die (unsigned, but truly noteworthy band), and is composed of Gauthier Ajarrista (guitar), Harry James (bass), Tobias O’Kandi (vocals), and Andi Sleath (drums). Taking their name from a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ songs, the band harkens back to the 80s for most of their cues, especially the original post-punk era. Though there is a bit of the shoegaze in them, they are more like Editors than The Horrors. This is not mere revival… they are not capitalizing on the past for quick-fly-by-night notoriety; instead, they are building on a tradition of music, inverting quite a bit of it inside-out, and producing something that is fresh and relevant. Straightforward music in the vein of The Cure or Joy Division, with the dramatic feel of Sisters of Mercy, the band’s new wave sensibility of producing music that is tongue-in-cheek, yet introspective, is obvious from beginning to end.

The album opens with “Malo”; it has the same affect on me as “The Killing Moon.” Though sonically they share very little in common, I understand why this is the case (and will explain below). This is a moody, broody song, with nice synth work. It is a somewhat odd start to the album, and arguably a hard song to follow, but “Dead Disco Dancer” does not let you down. This single, the second track, is somewhere between dreadfully dark and tongue-in-cheek, as it whirls through a narrative that starts, “Wake up, sunny, school is cancelled for the day… The disco dancer is dead… they found him at the track with a bullet in his head…” Eventually, they are digging up his grave, and though this sounds gory, it is actually a playful song, regardless of the lyrics. This is no easy feat to accomplish – to have music and lyrics work in tandem, though they are going in different directions – and it speaks to the songwriting chops this band has.

“Heels” follows – classically a post-punk song, circa early 1982; for those of us really familiar with this era, this song is going to pull a few of your internal strings and you are going to get stuck on it. Another gem on the album is “Ezekiel’s Son” – the darkest song on the album, it is the meeting of dream pop and new wave sonically. “Ruins” exudes ingenious new wave, while “Pray the Soul Away” sports out the most rocking guitar arrangements on the album – I am starting to want to hear this song live. The album closes with the experimental “Don’t Dig”: “Whenever I go, and my last breath is done, don’t make a fuzz…” O’Kandi sings, to the one song on the album that relies more on effects than the actual rhythm; he soon sings, “I’ll be in your head, you’ll forget I was dead.” It is the aspiring wish of all artists, to become immortal through their work… to be kept in someone’s head. And that is an apt metaphor for when you finish listening to this album; it may not haunt you in any nightmarish way, but you will not forget it anytime soon.

I need to say one more thing. If I have said this once, I have said it a thousand times: I hate when people compare the voice of one singer with another, as if sounding similar is a be all and end all to criticism – unless it is impersonation, people are born with their voices, and there is nothing that they can do about it. I can imagine everyone already oozing with lazy comparisons between O’Kandi’s voice and Ian Curtis’. O’Kandi may have a similar voice (he was born with it), but he does not just carry a tune like Curtis. (I am sure there are some that will think that was a blasphemous comment to make.) Actually, O’Kandi is singing, doing more than just carrying a tune; if anything, he is closer in style to Ian McCulloch [of Echo and the Bunnymen fame], with a much deeper voice (hence, why it has the same affect on me as “The Killing Moon.”)

Simply put: this is a good album, not your typical summer time release, and it is not going to disappoint.

Track Listing:
1. Malo
2. Dead Disco Dancer
3. Heels
4. Fault Line
5. Smile
6. Ezekiel’s Son
7. Ruins
8. Radio Waves
9. Pray the Soul Away
10. Don’t Dig

Keep up with O. Children at their MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here are their videos for “Dead Disco Dancer” and “Ruins” from their YouTube Channel: ochildrentv

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