Title: Paralytic Stalks
Label: Polyvinyl Record co.
Tell me more: The baby of Kevin Barnes (who’s actually from Athens, Georgia) who, since 1997’s Cherry Peel has released an album almost every year. On this, all songs are written, performed, engineered and produced by Barnes himself.
The Lowdown: The cover suggests some strange goings on and indeed there is a host of mind-blowing happenings in Paralytic Stalks. Barnes seems intent on getting the kitchen sink in: sing high, sing low, throw in some dark lyrics, go rocky, slow it down, go dancey, pretend to be Bowie, and so it goes.
Spiritual Invention reveals where his mind is at: “It’s fucking sad that we need a tragedy to occur, to gain a fresh perspective in our lives.” Which at least suggests he appreciates the cycle of life: that the tunnel always has a light. But then we realise all hope is gone: “Nothing happens for a reason, there’s no point in even pretending, you know the sad truth as well as I.” Now I understand that cover much clearer.
Paralytic Stalks may well take a few plays to get into but the bleakness of the words, and the schizophrenic nature of the music makes for a queasy listen.
Anything else: Barnes once had a relationship with a woman “of Montreal”.
Label: Hungry Audio
Tell me more: “Indie tunes with a heavy attitude” is one description I have come across for this Norfolk, eastern England-based band.
The Lowdown: Opening track, Cheat, with its grinding guitars suggests we’re in for a rocky ride. And yet, as soon as its follow-up, All This Get Me Down Wrong, the band has swung toward the opposite end of the pendulum, offering up a funky interlude and a nice even pace. I love the piano on The Madness in Everyone (curiously it sounds like Madness, the band). There’s some intriguing words here – “as you feel the fire, you pass the flame along,” on the otherwise disappointing These Friends. I can’t quite make up my mind about Invention; there are either heart-pumping moments, or it is melodic and enchanting, working on occasion and flailing like a fish on the end of a rod at other times. I guess once Phil Critten decides to stick to a tried and tested formula, we shall hear the best of aCivilian.
The Lowdown: The cover uses Allison Goldfrapp from Supernature as its central imagine surrounded by images of previous album covers; and the track listing defies chronology in typical record label fashion, which means the electro-frenzied Strict Machine is followed by Lovely Head, and as anyone familiar with the duo will back me up, that’s just wrong. Yeah, it’s a blatant, no-effort cash-in job to fill a gap. The redeeming feature for fans is the inclusion of two new songs, both of which are infinitely better than anything that was on the disco-affrontery of 2009’s Head First. Melancholy Sky is a typically subtle and mesmerising track that highlights what a magnificent voice Allison has. Yellow Halo is in a similar vein, spikier than the tracks on Seventh Tree, but still beautiful and evocative. A new album is due sometime this year, and it’s unclear if these tracks are a portent of what’s to come, or even if they will be included. Which would be unfair on fans.