Ah, The Anubian Lights. What are they and where have they come from? And why Hawkwind exactly? I don’t know. I refuse to answer. But I shall speak of their latest release Naz Bar which is one of those weird-ass albums that people will tell you is “strikingly original” and “has a great beat you can dance to”.
I admit, I was quite taken with the group the first time I heard this album. “What a Bagdad Had” and “Smoke and Mirrors” really got me grooving with their sampled backbeats, blasts of horn here and there, lounge vibes, and bizarre vocal loops. Yes, The Anubian Lights are one of those bands that mix up all sorts of dance/lounge/electronic/experimental goo to create something “strikingly original!”
Yet I can’t help but notice that for all of its kaleidoscopic offerings, Naz Bar is also another one of those albums that gets too clever for itself and becomes bogged down in all of the clamoring diversity. Occasionally, certain groups can pull off such a feat, like Len and their fine album You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush, but The Anubian Lights seem to be so stuck in trying to impress you with their “Wow look at us, we’re all so spacey and dreamy” that what amount of musical variety is put forth on this album eventually becomes beside the point.
I mean, their attempts at faux spiritual hipsterisms are corny all over. Just listen to “In Flight” and try your best not to groan when you hear the announcement “We have not served a meal in flight today because you have all been reserved a place at the great feast that will soon be spread at the marriage supper of the land. Christ Himself will serve you, and there will be plenty for everyone”. All right. Making Jesus cool again for the kiddies. Damn, that hasn’t been tried since the ’70s, no? I jest, but the retro-duds are just that. Duds.
On the other hand, “Epsilon” tries its best at turning out some kind of oddball tribal/jungle rhythm with some more goofy lyrics about mountain streams and love “dropped from planets far above”. Oh yeah. Make me believe it, baby. Then there’s “Dreamstate in the Mainframe” that tries its best to be Kraftwerk — but there’s no real point in doing the undoable, now, is there? I suppose the Lights thought there was.
But then they turn around and try to get all New Wave on your ass with “Micronite” that features ’80s-style gurgling and blooping keyboards with some of the worst synth beats you may have ever heard. I dunno when the whole cheesy Casio Ethic became cool, but frankly I’ve had enough of it (I can’t help but think of that other silly group Freezepop when I hear “Micronite”).
“Hot Sand” almost makes it out of the gate with some cool guitar bits and a nice backbeat, but the annoying vocal loops and glopped-on samples arrive just in time to ruin everything. Kids and their electronic toys these days. Someone needs to teach them that sometimes you don’t have to hit every button on the damned things to make a cool song.
I don’t have a feeling that The Anubian Lights would pay heed, though. Each of the 14 tracks on Naz Bar reeks of too much too soon. That’s the problem that often follows a lot of these dance-music tastymeisters around on a lot of these types of albums, though. Just because you have over 70 minutes on a standard compact disc doesn’t mean you should try to use all that time up. Concentrate on your best tunes and leave the questionable stuff back in the studio or release it as b-sides. Honestly, no one would notice if you went that route and then you’d have a much stronger album. Perhaps.
Sure, you can shake your ass to Naz Bar, but I’d say you’ll either be turning it off or flipping through the tracks to see if anything different happens before you even make it halfway through. The Anubian Lights may have some kind of funky look about them down, but they sure could use an editor in the studio, as well as some fresh ideas that don’t necessarily rely on retro grooves.