[9 August 2007]
The revolution is coming. That’s what they tell me anyway. I might not see in my own concert and club-going experience, but apparently the days of indie kids just standing there, arms folded, heads nodding slightly to the beat, feet rooted firmly to the floor are coming to an end. Toes are tapping, I’m told, bodies are moving and us indie types are hitting dance floors the world over. And it’s hard to deny. With every passing week, it seems that another band has abandoned their former sound and declared their allegiance to looped beats and repetitive melodies, eager to provide the soundtrack for the revolution. This week it’s Architecture in Helsinki. Places Like This erases any doubt that they deserve a place on that growing list of bands.
To be fair, the Aussie indie-poppers have always been a dance-friendly outfit, with a remix album and more than a few toe-tapping numbers already under their belt. Listening to a track like “Do the Whirlwind” on their celebrated 2005 disc In Case We Die you knew they had a knack for it. But Places Like This takes those tendencies much, much further, and sees the band fully embracing their dance side. The beats are up-tempo and consistent, the hooks repeat themselves frequently, the bass lines virtually beg you to get up out of your chair. In the process, the band plays down the relentless ADD-style changes and fabulously eclectic instrumentation that made their last record such an exciting success. And faced with a pop-driven attempt to get people moving their feet, there’s no doubt that fans of In Case We Die who were hoping for more of the same are going to be disappointed. This is a very different record.
That’s not to say that there isn’t anything here for die-hard fans of the “old” Architecture in Helsinki. They may have toned things down for their most recent effort, but they are still a deeply weird and original band that likes to have a lot of fun. They shout, they scream, they chant, and they moan. They push their songs forward at a manic pace, and even if they aren’t continuously shifting tempo and tone, they do keep things interesting. And most important of all, they still display an impressive talent for producing catchy and memorable pop hooks at every turn.
Nowhere on the record are those talents more apparent than on “Like It Or Not”. It’s the most In Case We Die-like track, and not only is it one of the best songs on Places Like This, it would have been among the strongest on the last record too. After a slow and jangly introduction, the song bursts into a catchy, up-tempo beat. In “traditional” AiH fashion, the song is constantly changing—verses, chorus, and bridges cycling by, synthy squiggles giving way to blaring horns and galloping bongos, acoustic guitars suddenly turning electric, then back again but with steel drums this time. And that’s not to mention the background shouting and ample supply of memorable vocal hooks (the opening “Wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa wa” is one; the final repeating refrain, “Her mom think she’s in love with you”, is another). There’s even a whistle at one point. It’s three exhilarating minutes of Architecture in Helsinki at their very best.
And it leaves you wanting more. Unfortunately, there’s not much of it. “Like It Or Not” is by no means the only great track on the record, but most of Places Like This doesn’t live up to its potential. Breathless, innovative changes and endless instrumentation are what the band do best, and for the most part, it’s not here. It’s not that Places Like This is a terrible record. It’s not; in fact, it’s quite good. It’s just not great. And since it follows in the footsteps of the truly wonderful In Case We Die, you can’t help but feel just a little bit disappointed by that.