Art Never Paid The Bills
Having read the grand sum total of ‘nil’ reviews of this album, along with a ‘brief’ glimpse on BBC’s Glasto coverage – which I did enjoy – I come with ‘clean’ ears so to speak. Apparently, I like quotation marks, but we all have our faults.
Saying all of that, New Eyes, the debut album from Cambridge electronic quartet Clean Bandit, is not without faults of its own. The start promised so much, and I really mean that. The drums, bass and bleeps are proper, along with the vocal instruction on “Mozart’s House” asking ‘Do you think electro music is boring?’ – that is a resounding no from me – but they somehow managed to take it from there to treat us to a tired, trance like, bass line that has been around since the early 90s and compliment it by sticking in a meaningless rap your kid sister could make up whilst singing into her pink hairbrush. So I took their advice and not only skipped a beat, I just moved on to the next track.
Pop music is what it is: three minute songs that are catchy, non-offensive and radio friendly. The next two songs are just about that, but I just left feeling that I’ve heard these before. “Extraordinary” must have been inspired by something from the Steps back catalogue and the vocoder nonsense on “Dust Clears” hasn’t been fashionable since Cher ruined it for everyone years ago. Thankfully “Rather Be” is on point. It’s the sound of 2014 pop-house. Showcasing their actual music ability – It might just be their only saving grace.
“A&E”, the starting point of their Glasto set – do the Beeb know they don’t pay their licence fees? – is an inoffensive pop tune by and large but how long will their potentially fickle audience put up with the novelty string section? What follows, “Come Over”, is a DJ by numbers dream. I have no doubt the Caribbean vibes and sunshine lyric will be heard from Magaluf (aka every parent’s worse nightmare TM) to the opposite end of the Mediterranean and beyond but it is doubtful that the tune will survive our Indian summer. You can probably stick “Cologne” on that list too for good measure.
“Telephone Banking” sounds like it was made with a particularly dodgy Casio watch, while “Up Again” is a fairly sub standard London Grammar rip. On “Heart On Fire” the Craig David-esque speed garage revival continues and the title track, “New Eyes”, is just Royskopp in the highly unlikely event they asked for a collaboration with Miss Dynamite (tee e!) years ago.
Any highlights then? After all this negativity there actually happens to be a pretty decent singer featured twice on here. Eliza Sheddad. The track “Birch”, which is most likely the most impressive song on the album, is reminiscent of a pop flavoured Nitin Sawney perhaps, while “UK Shanty” is a slick electro string number that is exactly what they actually promised us at the start. These are standouts from an artistic view, but art never paid the bills.
If you are the type to frequent the local cops and nurses disco on a Saturday night and want something to throw on whilst you’re getting ready with the girls, glass of wine close by, then this is for you. As for the rest of us? I suggest you give it a miss altogether and go check out Eliza Sheddad as that is exactly what this writer is about to do.
New Eyes was released on 2 June via Atlantic Records.