Music

Ides of Space: There Are No New Clouds

Margaret Schwartz

Ides of Space

There Are No New Clouds

Label: Better Looking
US Release Date: 2001-10-16
Amazon
iTunes

In a not-so-bizarre-these-days instance of television imitating life, the Australian freshman outfit Ides of Space were featured on this week's Dawson's Creek. The Creek has its own music guide -- a throwback to the days when the show was an innovator in terms of exploiting the barely legal market. From this hideously detailed how-to guide for the culturally tone deaf, I learned that the song "This Side of the Screen" was playing as Dawson walked down the stairs on his way to see a shrink (his mother just died -- an episode that nearly collapsed under the weight of its own formulaic pathos). This means, by the way, that if you were particularly moved at any moment during the episode, you can track that feeling down and purchase it in CD form.

Though I'm highly tempted to detour into a treatise on Dawson's Creek and the premature nostalgia of the twentysomething set for the barely cold corpse of its youth, I'll restrict myself to the following observations. One, Ides of Space sound an awful lot like the bands like Seam or Luna, circa 1994 -- the very period that Dawson's Creek's writers, in all their nostalgia, are targeting via the transparent artifice of small town teen angst. Two, they sound so damn polished and tight, that it is no wonder that the youth culture mainstream -- ever ravenous for plausible indie creds but shy of a less-than-professional sound -- snapped them up.

Neither of these points is meant to discredit the Ides of Space themselves, who are remarkably adept at producing lush yet precious melody, rocking guitar lines and a sense of wistfulness all at once. It is surprising that they sound so polished on their first release-- but this polish is not the result of corporate packaging or overproduction. Guitarists Mark Ayoub and Patrick Haid expertly mix fuzz and reverb to create a sound both thick and delicate. Even when they're just in a full-on strumfest, as on "Random Noise Generator", the minute long outtro is a brilliant pastiche of similar Pixies or Sonic Youth devolutions.

"This Side of the Screen" is certainly a winning leadoff track, with its moody, lackadaisical guitar line and thrumming bass. The tone changes entirely when the thick distortion guitar comes in on the bridge, swallowing the rest in a sort of mawkish groove. "Arthur's Car" is a lighter, more up-tempo number that will doubtless set teenage fans a-bouncing when the Ides of Space make it to the US next year; yet for all its hooky charm, the muddy, thick guitar places the aesthetic much closer to rock than pop. Same for "Keep Writing", which employs keyboard strings but whose thick bass and drum backbone make it meatier fare than the self-referential bubblegum we've come to love of late.

Haid's vocals remind me an awful lot of Seam's Sooyoung Park -- breathy and intimate but never fully articulated, often double-tracked, always impressionistic. In fact, the Seam comparison trumps all others, at least to my ear: the mix of sweet reverberating arpeggio, moody bass, and distorted, ripping choruses would fit in perfectly on albums like The Problem with Me. Insofar as Seam once sported Superchunk's Mac on drums and that the Pixies/Sonic Youth/Hüsker Dü holy trinity is present in all music of the period, Ides of Space also stand within that tradition.

In that sense, there's not much new here. What is unusual is the flawless execution -- artful feedback, rising strum intensity, crashing waves of distorted guitar -- all of this is done with a facility that bands like Seam never really had. Back then it was cool to sound a little awkward or a little unrehearsed. It's just like Dawson's Creek: though you may have been a spotty, awkward mess at sixteen, you can watch Katie Holmes and reimagine a lissome, articulate version of your youthful agonies. Listen to the Ides of Space and experience a deft, masterful rendering of all those earnest indie strivings.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Film

Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Music

Rush's 'Permanent Waves' Endures with Faultless Commercial Complexity

Forty years later, Rush's ability to strike a nearly perfect balance between mainstream invitingness and exclusory complexity is even more evident and remarkable. The progressive rock classic, Permanent Waves, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Music

Drum Machines? Samples? Brendan Benson Gets Contemporary with 'Dear Life'

Powerpop overlord and part-time Raconteur, Brendan Benson, grafts hip-hop beats to guitar pop on his seventh solo album, Dear Life.

Music

'Sell You Everything' Brings to Light Buzzcocks '1991 Demo LP' That Passed Under-the-Radar

Cherry Red Records' new box-set issued in memory of Pete Shelley gathers together the entire post-reunion output of the legendary Buzzcocks. Across the next week, PopMatters explores the set album-by-album. First up is The 1991 Demo LP.

Music

10 Key Tracks From the British Synthpop Boom of 1980

It's 40 years since the first explosion of electronic songs revitalized the UK charts with futuristic subject matter, DIY aesthetics, and occasionally pompous lyrics. To celebrate, here's a chronological list of those Moog-infused tracks of 1980 that had the biggest impact.

Reading Pandemics

Poe, Pandemic, and Underlying Conditions

To read Edgar Allan Poe in the time of pandemic, we need to appreciate a very different aspect of his perspective—not that of a mimetic artist but of the political economist.

Books

'Yours, Jean' Is a Perfect Mixture of Tragedy, Repressed Desire, and Poor Impulse Control

Lee Martin's Yours, Jean is a perfectly balanced and heartbreaking mix of true crime narrative and literary fiction.

Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.