Electric Soft Parade: Holes in the Wall

Devon Powers

Electric Soft Parade

Holes in the Wall

Label: DB
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2002-02-04

Another sibling duo with the surname White have come to breathe life into a dying musical genre. While Meg and Jack White (of the White Stripes) embody much of the glory of the American tradition of garage rock, Electric Soft Parade's Tom and Alex White restore Britpop's snap and crackle, delivering an album that feels as thrilling to listen to as Definitely Maybe or Parklife.

Of course, Britpop has been looking for a savior since the mid-'90s, when major artists scurried away from the form's signature pomposity and über-Britishness faster than you can say The Great Escape. Out went the social commentary, in came the nods to electronica, and suddenly it seemed that the genre was done for good. A would-be Jesus appeared in 1999 in the form of Cliff Jones, journalist-turned-rocker and leader of the group Gay Dad. Critics adored that band's release of that year, Leisure Noise, with its combination of hi-fi zing and powerful, glammy pop. But despite media prophecy of a second coming, a purist Britpop by and large stayed in hibernation.

In the vein of the Jones' experiment, Electric Soft Parade are now poised to push again for that awakening. (With a little help from Gay Dad, in fact: Leisure Noise producer Mark Frith has lent a hand here, and Cliff Jones sings backing vocals.) The Brighton brothers do Britpop with all the theater and flourish that define the form, updating it with a fuzzy, digitally-inspired edge. The songs of Holes in the Wall have the dreamsicle pop harmonies, new millennium-style '60s, and hooks so sharp you could fish with them. Take "Empty at the End", a three minute bounce that manages to both sound familiar at the first listen and fresher at every subsequent one. Layers of prancing piano and candied guitar lines create a welcome canvas for the brothers' unassuming vocal alignments. For more convincing, try "Something's Got to Give", a sassy jaunt dressed up with methodical drums and a hummable countermelody. The bright clarity of the Electric Soft Parade sound plays well against the reflective lyrics, largely about relationships, their thorny endings and sober new beginnings.

If the album has any drawback, it's of the sort that also heightens its infectiousness -- it is incredibly even handed, and nearly all the tracks listen like singles. That means there are few stylistic shifts and fewer risk-taking, non-radio friendly tricks. Even "Silent to the Dark" -- a song that ends soberly with a long, synthesizer/guitar/drum machine instrumental movement -- begins like a winning play out of the indie pop handbook, written neatly in two parts that are almost mutually exclusive. Against this paisley backdrop, the aggressive "Why Do You Try So Hard to Hate Me", which makes an appearance later on the disc, sounds almost violent. Its high-hat heavy percussion and spitfire chorus signal that there's plenty of uncharted territory for this band. And there should be -- hell, the siblings are both still under 20.

So that this album may be too much of a good thing is hardly a complaint, especially for those who've been hoping against hope for a British rock band who doesn't want to be Coldplay, Radiohead, or American. Electric Soft Parade deserve plenty of accolades for getting back to the basics, boldy going where British bands have gone before.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.