Remake Remodel: 12345 Accelerate

[19 July 2004]

By Jason MacNeil

I know what you might be thinking. “Remake Remodel”—isn’t that an old Roxy Music song? Is this band a rip-off cover group best seen in Australian bars and clubs catering to an over 40 crowd? Well, no to both. Although the group shares a name with the song title from Brian Ferry and his group, this isn’t Roxy Music—more like rock-sy music if anything. This Australian band—consisting of Melissa Lock on bass, Jes Cogger on vocals, Alex Kastaniotis on drums, and Sarah Blaby on guitar—has rubbed shoulders with bands Down Under currently making a splash up over here, including Jet. This girl group has also been compared to the likes of Sleater-Kinney and the Strokes by critics, but don’t believe everything you read my dear children. (Except this review; I speak the truth!)

This, the third EP from the group, consists of four songs and clocks in at far less than 20 minutes of work. Heck, it’s doing good to clock over 15 as an enhanced CD with a film clip. Nonetheless, the four songs presented are quite good. Some might need a bit of polish, but generally what you get is a band intent on blowing you away with guitars and catchy hooks. “Talk okay, la la la la la”, Cogger says before the crunching and primitive “Accelerate” gets things rolling, with Remake Remodel hitting the ground flying more than running. The guitars and rhythm section are wound tightly while some fantastic Hammond Jr.-esque guitar is played by Blaby on the bridge and chorus. Some surf guitar nuances are added, but it’s the type of song that hits you in the gut, instinctively drawing you in. The rhythm section is also excellent, but Blaby blows them out of the proverbial water (or recording studio).

It’s no wonder that this band has been praised at various festivals and conferences, including Toronto’s North By Northeast Festival. They also appeared at Australia’s Big Day Out this year in Melbourne. And if these four tracks are a measuring stick, they have plenty more of this Blondie-retro-rock-cool in stock. “Thanx 4 Nothing” takes a second or four to find its footing and pop its clutch, moving into a kick-starting rocker that is relentless. Perhaps the only thing missing is a “woo hoo” from some backing female singers. It’s the slower groove that works so nicely, sort of like Blondie meets No Doubt, a slab of pop melded with a light and breezy reggae feeling. Cogger is very highbrow on the vocals, a la Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos. However, the song slows down in the bridge when it should be picking up from start to finish. One problem with the track is that the guitar is buried in the mix a la My Bloody Valentine.

Looking at the album photo on the back of the sleeve, one gets the feeling that Franz Ferdinand femme fatales might be the best term for Remake Remodel. A dazzling and lovable “Jellybean” veers between smart and highbrow Brit pop and a rollicking guitar riff. What makes it work here isn’t so much the guitar as drummer Kastaniotis, keeping it all together when other drummers might splinter the momentum or vibe going around them. A wall of guitars swim underneath Cogger’s vocals and “whoa oh”. Only once during this song does the bizarre notion of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” rear its head, but again this disappears with the stellar chorus and musicianship. “Now you know, now you know”, they sing while the band hits all cylinders. Unfortunately, one has to sneer when the idea of a four-song EP contains a REMIX? “Jellybean Remodel” is that tune, with the title “Ransom Remix” added. It’s a real downer to be sure, as it sounds almost bastardized. An EP can contain remixes if you’re recognized or proven, but when you’re still getting it right, putting it on does the band a disservice. Remake Remodel are promising, just don’t let the closing tune make you tune them out.

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