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Electrelane - The Power Out

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Artist: Electrelane

Album: The Power Out

Label: Too Pure

Review date: Mar. 28, 2004

Electrelane's previous album, their debut Rock It To The Moon, showed a young band with energy and a sound all their own, though clearly distilling a set of inspirations ranging from Sonic Youth to Neu! More space rock than punk rock, the instrumental album included both high-energy jams and slower spaced-out motorik songs.

On their follow-up, the most obvious change, and one the band may be growing tired of hearing about, is the addition of front-and-center vocals on nearly every song. This album, however, could have been made by an entirely different band than the one behind Rock It To The Moon. A few songs ratchet up the rock, but primarily there's a whole new focus here.

Songs like "Gone Under Sea" and "Enter Laughing" (particularly the former) channel Stereolab, with breathy vocals and a smooth sound. "Enter Laughing" is based, as are a number of songs here, on Mia Clarke's spare, repeating guitar line. The naked, single-note playing works on that song and others, but sometimes feels thin, leaving songs like "Birds" somewhat wanting.

Most often, though, it's Verity Susman's multilingual vocals that form the center of each song, from the peculiar vocal chirp in the chorus of "On Parade" to the chanted Spanish lyrics of "Oh Sombra!" Generally they work, with only "Birds" and its lazily off-key singing deviating from the success.

The loping rhythm and chunky fuzz of "This Deed" is perhaps the most similar in feel to the band's previous sound; it may also be perhaps the strongest song on The Power Out. "Only One Thing Is Needed" is another interesting head-nodder, letting Susman's keyboards step to the front over a fine propulsive rhythm from drummer Emma Gaze and bassist Rachel Dalley.

The Power Out may surprise and confuse listeners expecting Rock It redux, and the new album has a few rough patches and a general inconsistency due to Electrelane's willingness to experiment. Still, the band has once again produced a unique, idiosyncratic album.

By Mason Jones

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