The Vanishing: Songs For Psychotic Children

Jason MacNeil

The Vanishing

Songs for Psychotic Children

Label: Gold Standard Laboratories
US Release Date: 2003-05-30
UK Release Date: Available as import

The Vanishing are about as kitsch as they come. The band's official web site tout them as a "sci-fi horror disco group", which seems about right. The word "horror" when used with "disco" though might be considered an oxymoron to some. Regardless, the trio of Brian Hock, Jesse Eva, and Sadie Shaw are Misfits appearances wise, but they try to blend a synthetic disco beat over goth-induced vignettes. For instance, the opening "1" could be construed as some futuristic horror film starring Bela Lugosi III; but instead, less than a minute in, it all comes off as a bit passé and clichéd. With no drums and all three performing on synths at one moment or another, this doesn't bode well for the album. In fact it seems like a bad Halloween score. And it continues for over two minutes like this. Not a good start.

"Princess Poison" fortunately picks the band up quite a lot. Bringing to mind early Gary Numan, the female vocals are suited perfectly for this sort of song -- not too screechy, but not as soft as it could be. "I once had to touch her but she's falling into the jar", the lyric goes over a new wave arrangement. The bridge only makes the sound murky and without snap. The song does revert to a bouncy pop groove that recalls Blondie circa "Atomic". The hoots and hollers near the finale have a certain B52s motif to them before the song winds down. "White Walls" fares much better and is a great tune. The synths find their way around the song as Eva and Shaw sing in harmony at times. It sounds like the Go-Gos if they graduated from the house of Bauhaus. Unfortunately, the vocals devolve into a repetitive screaming match as the programmed drums go into overload.

The new wave movement has returned to several new groups, but the Vanishing know how to use it to its benefit most of the time. "Lost in Pictures", with its epic or cinematic Vangelis-meets-Thompson Twins style, is an interesting experiment that initially comes off well but fades shortly afterwards. Groups like Peaches can be discerned on the slightly "electroclash" feeling on "Into the Arms of Fire", a funky bassline that works under some early-'80s synthesized notes. Mumbling is off in the distance for this instrumental, one that could be perfect for Trainspotting. "Glass Is Falling" opens up with a riff and structure that is eerily reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins circa "Zero" from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. That's the only thing going for it, though, as it gets very weak, very quickly.

"Obituary", certainly a happy and uplifting title, is a drum-oriented track that moves nicely into a New Order-meets-Duane Eddy guitar format. Here the Vanishing are creating a good song for psychotic children, one of the best presented. "Sighs on Pyres" returns to the early schlock though of "1" with its pseudo-scary effects and monotonous bass line. Jesse Eva's saxophone is the only difference between this and the introduction, making for an arduous and, at times, painful listen.

The closing "Terror, I've Been Dying to Meet You" is the only instance of blatant attitude you're getting on this record. That's something they should look at more, as this song is lovely, and comes off as stronger than the rest. Letting loose on the vocals is another asset. The tune is also allowed to be fully flushed out and very winding as it gears down for its concluding synthesized solo. The bonus track is basically another gimmicky synth solo trying to wreak havoc with your mind. It doesn't work. The album has its moments, but not enough to make it memorable for many.

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