Sunday, July 4, 2010

CD Review: SEMIFINALISTS - 2 (V2 / Shock)

Monday, September 15, 2008 

Regardless of genre or fashion, Semifinalists are a band resolutely out for themselves with a burning desire to do musical good. In this case it involves living life like 1984 and its ensuing years never happened. Far from being some retro throwback the band just seem to dwell in the land of chorus-affected guitars, almost imperceptible bass, exuberant synth melodies, chunky samples and Casios at every turn.

On paper it should be brilliant. They should be at the forefront of this decade's obsession with that decade, riding MGMT's wave, touring with Hot Chip or opening for Cut Copy with whom they share a love of New Order, but something here doesn't sit quite right. Perhaps it's a case of Casioverdose; the little sounds processed to be big, the tinny drum machine and lack of rhythmic or tempo changes. If you have fond memories of Belouis Some or thought the last Hot Chip album was ace you might find something here, but the ideas, though interesting and executed with integrity, seem a little forced.

Singer and one-third of Semifinalists Adriana Alba left the band shortly after recording this with the remaining members touring with Lightspeed Champion recently. You can hear the similar wistfulness and occasional manic distorted guitar breakouts cropping up here, only with Dev Hynes the setting is not so constrained and the sense of fun more pronounced. You don't have to get Lightspeed Champion.

Weak vocals work beautifully for Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys. The songs suited his delivery and the raging tempests of synths and beats were countered by his Englishness and restraint to massive success. This isn't the case here. Semifinalists are more a twee pop band trapped in a jammed time machine and though some songs are fun and would be perhaps better live (Odd Situation, Last Pretending and Loud Hearts are clear high points), it's a case of too little stretched too far despite the good intentions and pop sensibility. Still, if the kids got it, it would be wonderful.

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