The Infinite Music of French Horn Rebellion
(Once Upon a Time)
US: 24 May 2011
UK: 31 Jan 2011
There’s a moment early in this record where things are perfectly charming—there’s 8-bit this, dance floor that, saturated synths galore, and enough neo-disco dabbling to make you wonder when Gloria Gaynor’s gonna burst through the speakers and show these young punks how it’s really done. But glory fades as surely as one’s enthusiasm for this seemingly endless record. While all this machinery making modern music can still be openhearted, that requires that there’s some honesty. Yeah, honesty. But there’s not much that’s honest here—or, rather, not much that’s truly musical.
There are fast-moving beats and intriguing sounds in spades, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an actual song anywhere in its midst. Big dance numbers have to have a hook—and an appealing one at that. The one that populates this album’s second track, “This Moment”, is as awkward as an eighth-grader’s love poems. There’s a desire for someone to stay in the moment, but nothing, as far as this listener can tell, that makes the moment all that special. You know, the stuff that speaks to universal emotions, the stuff that we can, you know, relate to. Maybe it’s there, but the vocals are buried behind tracks that try too hard to be clever, as if we’re being begged to pay attention to how much weird technology is at the band’s disposal. Twirl your finger in the “big whoop” style now.
“Geomancer’s Compass and Other Quasi-Scientific Findings” starts off with its mind in the right place. The introductory beat is powerful enough to make you drop your drink and race headlong to the dance floor, but within in seconds it all devolves into the same aimless blips and bloops of fey disinterest. At least those tracks are somewhat merciful in their brevity. “What I Want” eats up nearly a full seven minutes of your life like a second cousin with an unspecified behavioral disorder at a family picnic. It’s all noise—albeit melodic noise—with no real content, and the whole time you’re forced to eye other records in your collection wondering if they don’t have something more worthy of your effort and your time.
“The Body Electric” tries to be tough, but instead just sounds forced, while “Broken Heart” offers more of the over-stylized slop that populates the rest of the record. And it’s the tenth track. If you’ve made it that far you’re probably well ahead of most listeners, because there isn’t much here to hold your attention. In fact, by that time you might have to scroll back to make sure that you’re not just hearing variations of the blandness revealed earlier in the album.
There’s a part of me that desperately wants to use a pun about being finite instead of making a grand claim about being the antithesis of that, but, frankly, it’s too lazy. Something that works this hard at pretending to be music when in fact it’s just an excuse for a technology showcase doesn’t deserve that kind of work, either. I never thought I’d say this, but this offering has me pining for a Jamiroquai record—at least on one of those there’s a trace of substance to be found.