This post is the result of a request by a band, and starts with a bit of a saga. (I’ll try to make the saga part brief.)
Some time ago I was contacted by a very patient American musician by the name of Jason (Hi, Jason!). He’s in a band called The Luxury, and he’s patient because he asked if I’d have a listen to his band’s music. I said A-OK and he very generously send me a CD. The only trouble is that the CD never arrived. Grrr. After letting Jason know that I was crestfallen at not being able to hold that shiny piece of plastic and aluminium in my hands, he sent me some MP3s instead, and they arrived much quicker. (Like about five weeks quicker.)
That saga out of the way, I hunkered down to listen to The Luxury’s latest five-track EP, Why Don’t You Cry Anymore (Like You Used To)?. Unfortunately, my first impression was not positive, but that’s only because of the title – not because of the music, which I hadn’t heard yet. That title sounds a bit icky to me. (Or, to put it a bit more sophisticatedly: “psychologically suspect”.) It reminded me of a song title that I’m also not fond of: “Tears Are Cool” by Teenage Fanclub. (As far as I’m concerned, when someone sings “When I see you cry, I think tears are cool”, I think to myself: “Who on Earth thinks tears are cool? What kind of person enjoys seeing someone cry?”)
However, I put that misgiving aside and played the EP. After all, it’s the music that I’m interested in.
So, with the MP3s that Jason sent me sitting in my media player waiting to be played, I played them.
The Luxury – Why Don’t You Cry Anymore (Like You Used To)? (2012)
1. “Moment of Clarity“
This is sort of a non-track. It’s 33 seconds of a synthesizer awash in moody and melodramatic sounds. I liked it because it’s an unusual way to start an EP.
2. “Why Don’t You Cry Anymore (Like You Used To)?“
Here’s that synthesizer again. For a moment I was beginning to wonder if I’d been handed an EP of nothing but ambient sounds (like something you’d hear in an aromatherapist’s waiting room), but I was relieved to hear a drum at 0:06. And then another one. And a few more, until at 0:21 and there’s a quick drum fill before this song is off and racing. I must admit that I found the fast pace a little disconcerting after all the synthesized moodiness. It took a little while, but I settled into the pace. I like the singer’s voice. It reminds me of someone. But I don’t quite know who. Hang on… I’ll listen to him a bit more… Almost got it… Hang on…
Ah, that’s it. He sounds like a combination of Robert Pollard (from Guided By Voices), an early Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), and Chris Martin (Coldplay).
Production-wise, I like the reverb applied to his voice. My favourite part of the song is the middle eight (1:50-2:07). My least favourite part of the song is the little drum break after the middle eight (2:07-2:10). Here the drums are accompanied by a synthesizer with a sound that I can only describe as “dinky”. And that’s followed by a guitar solo that I found fairly painful to listen to. The guitar sound is fine, but it’s out of tune. (2:20-2:23 is especially painful.)
Overall, this song didn’t really float my boat. I did like how it finished though. (Abruptly – which was a nice surprise.)
3. “Alive And Kicking”
This is a cover of a Simple Minds song.
Due to legal shenanigans I won’t be posting it here. It’s on the CD (the band got permission), but not online (Internet law is a slippery thing, so the band’s playing it safe by not posting it anywhere).
But that’s not going to stop me talking about a song you’re not going to hear online. No sirree.
Oh-oh. The singer’s voice has that currently fashionable slightly distorted sound that has him sounding like he’s singing through a megaphone. Grrr. I think this is a decent cover. Not spectacular, just decent. There’s a dinky synthesizer in this song too. There’s also a bizarrely out of tune guitar in the right channel (e.g., 1:16 and 1:19). It’s bizarre because it sounds like the guitar is being pushed out of tune, possibly by either the strings being hit too hard or the strings being pushed up. Either way, it’s weird and doesn’t suit the song at all. (I reckon.)
One more production oddity before I stop bothering this song: During the verse that starts from 1:30, there’s a guitar in the right channel quietly playing a chord at the beginning of each bar. What I found odd was that at 1:46 the guitarist plays his chord much quieter than the previous chords, but at 1:48 he plays the next chord surprisingly loudly, much louder than all the other ones in the verse he had played up until then. After that he goes back to playing his chords quietly. Weird.
Unfortunately, I’m familiar with the original “Alive And Kicking” by Simple Minds so I wasn’t entirely able to erase my memories of it whilst listening to The Luxury’s version. As a result, I found this new version anaemic. (The sounds of those Simple Minds drums and the voice of Jim Kerr don’t leave your brain in a hurry once you’ve heard them.)
4. “Sleep Through Summer“
Oh yeah. I like this. I think this is much more interesting than the tracks that came before it.
“Sleep Through Summer” starts off with a synthesizer sound that could be described (by me) as “Ice Crystals”, and then the band comes roaring in at 0:13 with some off-kilter guitar sounds. This is much better.
One reason I’m liking this song is that the noisy part of the introduction (0:13-0:35) reminds me of a song by Peelgreems called “Shenmue”. Have a listen from 3:33 onwards and you might hear the same vibe I hear:
Peelgreems – “Shenmue“ (2010)
But back to “Sleep Through Summer”:
I like a fair amount of things about the verse, such as its sleepy mood (with singing that suits the mood beautifully) and the repeating guitar line in the right channel. And I loved how the band chucked in a bar of 6/8 to split the verse (0:44-0:45). Cute. I thought the bridge (0:57-1:19) was a bit ordinary compared to the verses, but the chorus comes along sounding nice ‘n’ epic (1:19-1:41). I’d say that if the band wanted to attract people who like the mid-tempo portentous sound that has been “in” for the last few years (ever since Coldplay made it popular), they could play them this song.
Yep. “Sleep Through Summer” is my favourite track on the EP so far. And now for the last track. Let’s see what that brings…
5. “Seven Stories [Live]
Well, this one has more energy than the non-live tracks. And I like it more than the other ones – except for “Sleep Through Summer”, which is still my favourite track on the EP.
I do have a minor complaint about “Seven Stories” though: I’m not keen on the sound of that synthesizer in the first half of the instrumental break (2:17-2:31). It’s not just dinky, it’s ultra-dinky. The synthesizer is still there for the second half (2:31-2:43), but at least it’s a lot quieter, and not playing as many notes.
But apart from that minor complaint, I enjoyed “Seven Stories”.
Oh, by the way: I’m glad this song is called “Seven Stories”, because it gives me an excuse to tell you that my brother (Hi, Anthony!) was recently guest guitarist in the 80’s/90’s band Seven Stories for their recent reunion gig. Here’s my brother in action on the night of the Seven Stories gig (he’s the one with the least amount of hair):
Thanks, The Luxury, for calling your song “Seven Stories”.
Okey dokey. I think I should stop typing shortly and let you get on with whatever it is you were doing before you stopped to read this post.
I was glad to be given the opportunity to hear music I hadn’t heard before (thanks, guys!), and I thought the EP was A-OK for what it was – i.e., slightly synth-y, slightly moody rock. It’s not quite what I enjoy listening to, but I think it’s a good example of the kind of music it is. If that’s you bag, then I’d say you’d enjoy it more than I did.
À chacun son goût, baby.
By the way, in what might be a horrible case of “I like your old stuff better than your new stuff“, I must admit that after listening to both Why Don’t You Cry… and the band’s previous effort, the 2009 album In The Wake Of Won’t Change, I prefer the album. I’m fully aware that the band could be reading this and thinking “That album was three years ago! We’ve moved on! We’re much better now!” etc., but it’s just my particular tastes in music that have me reaching for the play button on the album rather than the EP. Ah well.
Oh, and one more thing (I will finish this post eventually)…
One of the songs on the In The Wake Of Won’t Change album reminded me of another song, so there’ll soon be a Musical coincidence on the blog that will feature The Luxury. Oh yeah.