Posts Tagged ‘Pain Teens’

Christopher Nosnibor

Having just spent a depressing afternoon hearing the new Interpol album for the first time, I decided I needed cheering up. Scanning my immense backlog of releases for review – and, with new submissions landing faster than I can open emails, let alone download and listen to albums, I realise that Hanging Freud’s album has been lurking unplayed for far too long for an album I’d been excited to hear since ‘Antidote/Immune’, released as a taster of album number six, Persona Normal back in June last year, landed in my inbox.

The release / review cycle is in itself a pressure we would all do without, since albums by their nature have a slow diffusion. In an accelerated world, PR campaigns are over a month or so after release, and I suspect that under the current model of pre-release hype followed by a rapid burndown, most releases shift 90% of their units within the first months of release, before things taper off and pretty swiftly drop off a cliff. But I digress, as I’m prone to doing.

Persona Normal is not the kind of album you’d expect to provide joy, but, in context, it’s a welcome reminder that there are still bands who are at a more advanced stage in their career delivering albums that channel difficult emotions and explore them in real depth.

‘Cureseque’ is a term that’s passed into parlance to make a shorthand reference to anything that draws inspiration from The Cure, but it’s trouble some and rather inadequate given the band’s range. More often than not, it seems to translate as ‘lots of layered synths like Disintegration’. Not so Persona Normal, an album that condenses the style and atmosphere of the unparalleled trilogy of Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography into a single set. The atmosphere is bleak, and the production sparse, but there’s some monumental percussion that’s more akin to Pornography.

It opens with the droning, wheezing synth of ‘Too Human’. It’s pitched against a trudging, monotonous drum beat with a dominant snare, and this provides the backdrop to a gloomy yet elegant vocal that aches with resignation, before ‘We Don’t Want to Sleep’ pounds in on a rhythm reminiscent of ‘A Strange Day’, and this is around the level of the bleak, brooding atmosphere. It’s thick and heavy with angst.

But then, amidst the doomy, droning synths and metronomic, motorik drum machines, Paula comes on with the sass of Siouxsie, with her enunciation and her glacial cool post-punk intonations. And as such, while Persona Normal really is pretty fucking bleak, dense, and dark, it’s uplifting to hear an album that so perfectly captures the spirit of the bands from which it draws unashamed influence. Elsewhere, I’m reminded of Chelsea Wolfe and Pain Teens; ‘Is This Why?’ may be sparse in its arrangement, but the sound is full, expansive, epic, and there’s something graceful and plaintive in its inward searching. An in an album of wall-to-wall quality, ‘Immune’ stands out as a snarling post-punk beast with the sharpest of hooks – and it’s all in the delivery.

More often than not, the sounds and overall sound and delivery convey so much more than words alone – and the production only enhances the experience. It’s dense, dark, drum-heavy, and even in the middle of a heatwave, it’s an album that will chill you to the core.

AA

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