See Mystery Lights
out July 28th
I sincerely believe that there came a moment in everybody's lives early last year when they first heard the Ting Tings' "Shut Up And Let Me Go". There we were, listening to the most hotly tipped music this side of Little Boots, smugly nodding along to a pretty decent song. But then... that yelp! "HEY!". Computers exploded everywhere, speaker systems were quickly turned off, and thousands of hypem.com perusers trotted down to the nearest Doctor's surgery to have their ear drums checked for signs of permanent damage. I may still have use of my ears, but Yacht's latest album, "See Mystery Lights", contains far too many moments like that. Depressingly, these moments scar an album that is, for the most part, an exceptionally impressive artistic statement and further proof of the genius of James Murphy's DFA.
Opener "Ring The Bell" manages to avoid any of these pitfalls and is certainly one of the highlights of the record due mostly to its well developed lyrics that centre around the concept of the afterlife. Carrying off a psychedelica tinged 80s pop feel, comparisons to The Juan Maclean and LCD Soundsystem seem well justified. The following song "The Afterlife" unsurprisingly continues with the same discussion of life after death, but contains the record's first Ting Tings moment; not only a yelped "HEY!", but just Claire Evans' lyrics in general. They sound tired, flat, monotonous and all-round-blatantly dull, if I'm allowed to be honest (which I assume I am). The band may argue that this is some sort of artistic expression relating to the afterlife, indeed I would hope that this is intentional, but the fact remains that it's an exceptionally tedious style that is repeated throughout the album, and I can guarantee that many like minded people will find themselves pressing the stop button at this point.
This is a great shame, because if I had not been forced to return to the record because I had to write this review, I wouldn't have heard arguably the strongest song on the album, "I'm In Love With A Ripper". It begins with the sort of insanely original and smooth sounding drum beat that could well be the glitchy love child of James Murphy and SebastiAn. Unfortunately, instead of nailing the listener with an unforgettable chorus, the song meanders off into the psychedelic refrain of "I'm in love with a ripper", which I assume is intended to be the "chorus" of the song, but sounds more like a rejected Animal Collective bridge.
"See Mystery Lights" then hits a low with the "It's Boring / You Can Live Anywhere You Want" duo. I can get past the fact that these two songs have mysteriously been lumped together, and I can also deal with the repeated 80s pop that, let's face it, has pretty much been exhausted by the rest of the album, but the lyrical mundanity of this song is criminal. I could have accepted the repeated cry of "It's boring" for a couple of reasons; I agreed with them, and I assumed it to be some vague attempt to impress the listener by demonstrating a sound appreciation of irony. However, the fact that "You Can Live Anywhere You Want" continues with the opus of "hell, we've got a whole album to go, we only need about 6 words per song to get our message across" would seem to indicate that it is not irony that's evident, more a deflating lack of ideas. The album is saved by the two following songs, "Psychic City" and "Summer Song", which have both deservedly garnered much praise from critics recently. However, they continue to highlight the record's lack of ambition - "Psychic City" repeats Evans' too-cool-to-bother-trying (and subsequently fail) lyrical approach and "Summer Song", although it may sound delightfully reminiscent of a better decade as a single, seems predictable and repeated on the album.
I genuinely dislike criticising albums, and it's made even harder by the fact that the instrumentation and production of the album is almost infallible and could have been put to much better use if it was coupled with a worthy lyricist. Furthermore, you have to applaud Yacht for their bravery to attempt to stretch out one concept over an entire album, and their artistic integrity that led them to canceling all their SXSW shows in favor of meeting fans one on one. There's no doubt that both Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans possess a great amount of artistic ability, it's just that "See Mystery Lights" is perhaps a case of a bit too much bravery and artistic integrity, and not enough focus on "the music".
When reading reviews of White Denim's recent LP "Fits", one reviewer pointed out that they had done exceptionally well to be able to cram four different ideas into each song. "See Mystery Lights" is pretty much the antithesis of this, and it drags out one concept and song style over an entire album, with limited success. And when comparisons with LCD Soundsystem and The Juan Maclean are so accurate... well; why wouldn't you just buy one of their albums?
However, it's not a case of a sunken Yacht; it's just coasting along at its own very particular speed, determined to do everything on its own terms, irrespective of popular opinion. This strength, without a doubt, is to be applauded, but it is not necessarily the best way to make a pop album. Hopefully many of you will enjoy the eccentric amblings of Yacht's "See Mystery Lights", but this reviewer would rather swim.
To enter to win a copy of Yacht's See Mystery Lights on vinyl or CD formats (a total of two winners)., leave a comment with your thoughts on the tracks you’ve just sampled, Yacht, or (if you’ve listened to it) the album. Make sure you leave your name/email address in the provided fields! Entries will be accepted until July 20th
Phil Gwyn is a guest-blogger here at PMA. Read his other thoughts on music at his blog,Not Many Experts