Album review: Klaxons' 'Surfing the Void'
When the Klaxons first arrived on the scene with their debut, “Myths of the Near Future,” in 2007, they were saddled with the cumbersome micro-genre nu-rave. Part of a larger emergent dance-punk trend whose biggest members now are probably M.I.A. and LCD Soundsystem, the Londoners persevered mightily against the irritating “nu” prefix and snagged a Mercury Prize.
But it wasn’t exactly a saunter through glow-stick paradise after that. Early last year, Polydor, the Klaxons' British label, allegedly blew the air-raid siren on the initial recordings of the Klaxons’ follow-up. Deemed too experimental, the recordings were scrapped and “Myths” producer James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco was replaced with Ross Robinson, producer for Korn and Slipknot, signaling the kind of seismic shift in values that can give a young blogger a panic attack.
Robinson went on to further scare the young curs by stating that he’d made "the most violent British record to date." “Surfing the Void,” which debuted in the U.K.’s top 10, isn’t the album equivalent of Jeffrey Dahmer, and that's quite alright, but it’s more muscular and aggressive. The rave is still happening, but the chill-out room this is not.
On the plus side, Jamie Reynolds, Jamie Righton and the rest of the band sound invigorated, their call-and-response vocals not cowed by the album’s rumbling but still well-sculpted walls of sound. The blood-in-the-water bass lines are omnipresent and sometimes exhausting, but they seem to provide the kind of ever-refreshing paranoia the band can find a crazed succor in over and over again.
The band’s ambitions are both its boon and its downfall. Too often, the Klaxons are simply humorless -- couldn't they have looked at their own awesomely irreverent album art for cues?
Lots of tantalizing textures bang into the album -– from typewriters to a very muted siren to antagonistic layers of brittle synths –- but it’s the vocals themselves that often tax the listener most. On “Extra Astronomical,” the gents fire out several words and concepts in a seemingly scattershot attempt to unsettle the listener, but instead, we feel put out. Klaxons, if you’re going to shout in our ears a bunch, can you at least have something to say? You can surf the void, but it's good to touch down now and again too.
-- Margaret Wappler
"Surfing the Void"