Under Review: Klaxons – Surfing The Void

It would appear that British dance-rock bands, regardless of when they’re active, will all experience the same dilemma: where to go after their debut.  Even the masters of the genre, New Order, struggled to settle down during and following Movement, though the searching quickly led them to their iconic sound.  Bands ranging from the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses to younger upstarts like Kasabian and Hot Chip have all stumbled to either define or redefine themselves after their first records.  Klaxons, who made their debut in 2007 with the thrilling Myths Of The Near Future, have finally followed that record with one that aims high and nearly gets there.  Surfing The Void has been a long time coming, and that time has seemed even longer when juxtaposed with the band’s rapid rise to fame.  The original sessions for the album were evidently rejected by their label, forcing the band to retreat to the studio until they came up with something more palatable.  Given how noisy and out-there Surfing The Void’s final incarnation is, one can only wonder how extreme those initial tapes sounded.  The new songs feature a stronger rock direction, though the elements of dance and psychedelia remain abundant.  The title track’s a thumping blitz and “Valley Of The Calm Trees” features some of the vocal harmonies that make Myths Of The Near Future stand out from its thrashy contemporaries.  Still, after a few listens, I’m unsure if Klaxons have recaptured their offbeat cool, or if their decadent style has already become passé.

On one hand, Surfing The Void boasts some really strong material, namely “Echoes” and “Venusia.”  Then again, there are too many times when I wondered if this is really the direction a band should take when they’ve been absent for so many years.  Sure, “Twin Flames” and “The Same Space” are satisfying on some level, but Surfing The Void isn’t the kind of immediately memorable album like its predecessor.  Perhaps that’s due to the album’s late ventures into straight-up dude rock.  The album was produced by Ross Robinson, who primarily works with the kinds of relentless bands whose logos you might find etched into junior high school desks.  “Flashover” is a blast of brutal and rampaging rock, which isn’t really what you’d want to hear from a dance band.  Granted, Klaxons have shown an affinity for the abrasive, but this song and Surfing The Void’s overall tone can become more grating than exciting.  Despite its creative shortcomings, Surfing The Void is a snapshot of a band that’s still trying to find its place.  Whether that place is in outer space (like Commander Whiskers on the cover there) or back here on Earth, Klaxons explore all those regions in an ambitious and mostly gratifying way on Surfing The Void.

~ by E. on August 27, 2010.

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