Music

Shy Child: Noise Won't Stop

Live energy and racing tempos have translated to studio recording very well, but the band's genre decisions, intentional or not, may not be maximizing their potential.


Shy Child

Noise Won't Stop

Label: Kill Rock Stars
US Release Date: 2008-05-06
UK Release Date: 2007-05-21
Amazon
iTunes

Back from a year of self-imposed exile in England, Shy Child played their homecoming show, oddly, not at their Brooklyn home but in Austin, Texas. It was South By Southwest at one of the Emo's (probably the Annex, maybe Jr., who can remember?), and the keytar-and-drums duo were headlining the Kill Rock Stars showcase along with KRS fare of both the classic punk (Mika Miko) and newly electronic (Panther) styles, falling somewhere in between (though certainly in the latter camp by KRS standards). After a year spent opening for the Klaxons and, apparently, trading in some well-worn dance-punk tendencies for a more current nu-rave arsenal, the band seemed fresh and invigorated. But the audience at Emo's, albeit an audience with attention critically divided between thousands of SXSW bands, seemed relatively unmoved, even by a set about as slammin' as could possibly be hoped from just one guy with fingers dashing across a keyboard strapped over his shoulders (Nate Smith) and one guy belting out lyrics while battering a drum kit (Pete Cafarella; both of El Guapo/Supersystem). Summary: undeniable skills, mediocre audience response.

What happened? At the show, I was swept up with admitted ease by the energy and surprisingly full sound, and listening to their new sophomore album, Noise Won't Stop, out in the U.S. on May 5th on Kill Rock Stars (already long out on Wall of Sound in the UK), the feeling is easy to reconjure. They've greatly expanded on the spare frameworks of debut One With the Sun, filling in layered crescendos, backing vocals (see, for instance, the Spank Rock guest bit on "Kick Drum", refreshing if under-used), and even a nice bit of sax squall (opener "Drop the Phone"). But this was always a band that sounded best live, and as with the rather flat One With the Sun, cracks start to show on closer examination of the recordings. Here, the energy and racing tempos have translated to studio recording very well, but the band's genre decision, intentional or not, to drift towards nu-rave may not be maximizing their potential. Even the title, Noise Won't Stop is a sort of promise, and a sort of lament. Or maybe a threat.

The 12 songs come off as one relentless bass slurry regularly studded with insistent kicks, fittingly raved-up treble stabs, and strident vocals that never manage to stray from about the same half octave range whether singing about cell phones or the Armageddon. Not that they're bad. Really, Cafarella's voice serves exactly the purpose it needs too; it just does it in exactly the same way every track. And the words are mostly perfunctory, anyway. For truly memorable songs about the Armageddon there's always the Mae Shi. But anyway, it's one tempo, one M.O., one glossy dance-floor trick that does work well enough to sustain itself for a while. And when they're on, they're really on, it's true. The embellishments can work wonders, and "The Volume" utterly sparkles with synthetic glitter and a sort of architectural retro-future that I associate with '50s-era modernism for some reason. This is great; this probably should have been the single.

But the album's best moment comes when it finally breaks from the the endlessly flashing strobe of the other 11 tracks with the penultimate "What's It Feel Like". Dropping tempo and most heavy dance trappings to a piano line like a sort of pitched-down "All My Friends" by LCD Soundsystem, then building up cool sweeps and alternating Cafarella with a female vocalist who helps balance his parts out. It's the first time Shy Child really get to indulge their pop sensibilities in full and suggests they should dare to do so more frequently. The bridge hits in a languid flurry of gleaming, ascending synth notes, then peters out into a smooth drift and (sampled?) narration in what sounds like Italian, like the exhalation at the end of a dream. And then "Cause and Effect" kicks back in and amps everything up again and the moment's over.

Let me disclaim for a moment, since I've basically claimed to like only two songs. In truth, the album is overall enjoyable and the baseline quality is pretty high throughout. The lesser tracks are basically matching nu-wave prototypes, but propulsive, lavishly produced prototypes that exactly succeed at being the dancefloor stompers the seem to be shooting for. That said -- and I couldn't even begin to say what reception to this sort of thing is getting overseas, where this album has actually been out for almost a year -- that said, demand for the Klaxons and their cohort seems to be waning a bit here and now (in the States, 2008). The issue here, if any, comes if you think a disc of nu-rave dancefloor stompers is shooting sort of low.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

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.