Once you overlook the fact that Dean ‘Hair Guitar’ Lazarus has an overt fondness for long, anachronistic guitar solos, you are face to face with the other fact: you’re listening to the album of a band that is still vying for the best school band contest. And you know what the great thing about Blue Blood’s debut album Beyond Reach is? The guys sound so confident that they have no idea how delightfully idiotic they sound.
Vocalist Roald D’Costa sings through the album like a Harley rolling down the highway with two flat tyres. And just before Blue Blood fans — and I’m sure they are out there — think that that’s supposed to be a compliment, let me just clarify — D’Costa sings as competently as a stone can swim across one side of the Pacific Ocean to the other.
The R.E.M.-reminiscent riffs that start the show in ‘Not for me’ are deeply deceptive — and last for a few seconds. The guitar buzz somehow manages to hold the pack of cards together that is, until Lazarus’ fabled guitars hit the scene. Middle-aged Van Halen fans may crawl out of their boardrooms, but for the rest of us, Blue Blood is the real life Spinal Tap, the hard rock, heavy muscled, long-haired dudes playing rock music because, well, to impress the chicks and have free beer (both noble qualities, but minus the right attitude can result in fatal style statements).
And the boys have a flair for playing bad, lazy music. In ‘Broken’, I give up trying to follow D’Costa dribbling sound that he seems sure of being the act of singing. He can’t hold a note even if a baby was dangling from it. I’m thinking who’s the nephew of the producer in the band for this album to have come out? ‘Paradise lost’ is a mindless beat with bad vocals. But you ain’t heard anything until you hear ‘Walk away’ and ‘Brother’, both slow numbers that should have got stuck after the first couple of notes but are supposed to display the band’s sensitive ‘lighters swaying’ side. It’s the latter that wins a tightly fought contest among the dozen songs of standing out as the worst track of the album. Actually, make that of the year. Depending on your affinity to Gary Lawyer, burn this album or throw it into your local sewerage.
Music for the smart set
I first time I heard Vampire Weekend was when this New York band did a neat cover of Rancid’s riot act of a love song, ‘Ruby Soho’. They’re now out with their second album, Contra — after their eponymous debut that I’m yet to listen — and my idea of them being the perfect band for a cappucino-drinking, global warming-concerned, witty band seems to be right enough.
The Latino twang of the opening track ‘Horchata’ is cute and can be listened to on the iPod while tramping up Machhu Pichhu. ‘White sky’ has a synth-flavoured Paul Simon feel to it. That the band is bursting with a no-nonsense nonsensical joy of living can be confirmed in ‘Holiday’ — “A vegetarian since the invasion/She’d never seen the word ‘bombs’/She’d never seen the word ‘bombs’ blown up/To 96 point futura... So if I wait for a holiday could it stop my fear?/To go away on a summer’s day never seemed so clear.”
The indie band continues on its Graceland-kind of global pop soundpath (frontman Ezra Koenig preferring the term, “Upper West Side Soweto”) is infectious if you’re into catching smart butterflies. ‘California English’ is downright funny, with its take on people like the members of Vampire Weekend — “Funny how that little college girl called language corrupt/ Funny how the other private schools had no hapa club.”
I can trace Vampire Weekend’s genetic trail back to bands like The Talking Heads and other book-reading groups. What I find lacking, though, in this bunch of Columbia University grads is any sense of swagger or primal instinct. This is clever, witty music for clever, witty people who prefer to be in bermudas and are equally at home inside particle physics labs as they are in Starbuck outlets. The music is as fiesty as a polka during the Weimar years.
No doubt the album’s a hit in America. After all, the dervish-ish ‘Giving up the gun’ mixes message with rhythm. Which makes me a tad worried about America today.