Disappears get reviewed by the likes of Mojo which is not the case with many other bands I review I suspect. Strangely this snippet of PR info fills me with unease and my hipster bone begins to ache in warning. Ah, but what the hey, ’tis the music we’re here for. And I am promised ‘post-punk like it used to be in the eighties when anything seemed possible…’ *Ow* Sorry, that bone being unfair again.
‘Girl’ begins the album with a bit of throwaway Sonic Youth style noise which is nice enough and better than the usual tolling bell and keyboard stuff I get at the beginning of albums in all honesty. ‘Power’ comes next with a downtuned bit of highly melodic but ominous repetition; now I’m hardly an expert in this realm but to me it comes over like some kind of dubstep crossed with an early 1970s giallo score but half as frightening as either. In fact it’s rather nice, really. Kinda ripe for being used in just that role on TV in fact. It is also bright and clear production wise and it stomps (lightly) on the constant beat for a short enough time to not be annoying. Not bad in fact. ‘Ultra’ confirms that this is Disappears signature sound; a trance like dance beat that brings bits of darkwave and Joy Division and that very 80s post punk sound I was promised. It balances a dozen names on the tip of my tongue, as the half spoken vocals tumble into the simple beat mostly undeciphered, but I suppose I find it more reminiscent of the sound as a whole rather than individuals. I also find it gently dark but comforting rather than sinister and abrasive.
The title track ‘Era’ is closer to verse and chorus music, a jangly guitar and bass and hollow vocals that is thankfully as short as it is bland.
‘Weird House’ is a much better balance between the single repetition of the theme and the chorus verse approach of ‘Era’ and is so redolent of all those earnest art school bands of the eighties, all treble happy guitar lines, heavy snare beat, dry ice overload and button down shirt brigade. It’s the post-punk equivalent of the 70s occult rock revival; you cannot quibble with the accuracy or, here, the quality of the sound and the focus of the music. Simply marvel at the reconstruction and ponder on the point.
I wonder if ‘Elite Typical’ as a title is a sideways joke at me. Or even at themselves. But musically it has one of those bass-lines that sounds like gathering speed but goes exactly nowhere; drawled, lazy sounding, cynical vocals are the star of the show and the rest a vehicle to get them there. Eight minutes of this though is pushing it unless you’re on a bit of a nod, I guess. ‘New House’ closes out the album with a murmuring, heroin hazy insistent sound that is sparse and heavy with a Twin Peaks touch to the bass and is by far the creepiest thing here. By far.
After it finishes I sit back and try and figure out my reaction to this weird flashback of an album. The first thing to note is that it is, actually, beautifully constructed and with a light, easy, lazy hand that is just about perfect. When it eschews the standard verse chorus route it is hypnotic, Sigur Ros creeping around the Manchester/Factory Records sound and maybe a desire to incorporate a bit of Flipper circa the classic ‘Generic’. The eighties never ended and somehow no one ruined their lives on junk. What it is not is ‘the sound of the void looking back’. I’ve been there through many musical doorways and save for ‘Power’ and it’s Italian slasher flick sensibility, or ‘New House’ this is the sound of art house self obsession not darkness, fear or the unknown.
If in approach I can once again compare it to the 70s rock revival, despite its class in performance it never reaches the heights where Graveyard and Witchcraft have transcended the reconstruction and entered into a sound genuinely of their own and curiously new. No, Era is weird. It’s like facing a rich, gorgeous sculpture of modern material whose main impact is to make you want to go back and look at the art that inspired you to go to galleries in the first place. But if you can’t find them again, or haven’t the time then this will easily fill the hole. It certainly has its place I guess.
Just ignore the PR sheet bollocks.
A qualified and hesitant half approval I guess for that post-punk moment in your life.