Late Of The Pier - Fantasy Black Channel
Sel Bulut 15/08/2008
The hypewagon. That wonderful machine that takes perfectly competent bands and causes them to rush a debut, and in the process end up releasing a half-baked debut, stuffed with filler and inferior re-recordings. Too frequently a band riding the hypewagon will release a long player too early in their career, and without time to properly develop their music, a band that rides the wagon will more often that not end up falling off and under the wheels (so to speak) - most recently seen in lacklustre efforts from Does It Offend You, Yeah? and Black Kids.
So how do Late Of The Pier fare? Most would assume that Fantasy Black Channel would never be able to top the brilliance of singles 'The Bears Are Coming', 'Focker' or the should-be-classic 'Bathroom Gurgle', even with Erol Alkan on board reprising his production duties. Yet Fantasy Back Channel completely exceeds expectation, showing that after almost two years of gradually-building hype, the best music comes with time. Having been writing music together in some form or other since 2001, there was certainly time to experiment, mature and develop their sound, and it really does show.
Of course, whether the way it shows is a good or bad thing depends entirely on your viewpoint. Having had so many years to explore and foray into whatever style piqued their interest at that particular time, Fantasy Black Channel is very inconsistent in what genre it belongs to, all held together by one bizarre, quirky touch you simply can't put your finger on - all songs sound 'definitively Late Of The Pier', but the anthemic glam racket of 'Heartbeat' is a world away from the dirty electro basslines of 'The Bears Are Coming' or the discordant post-punk of 'Mad Dogs & Englishmen'.
Such an array of styles and seemingly random swings from one of these styles to the next will be seen as detrimental to some, and in some cases this is true. The flow of the first three and last two tracks is brilliant, yet the middle seems a bit garbled, and the seemingly random ordering of them doesn't feel so much like an album than a collection of songs - yet it's hard to think that they could really be placed in any other way.
Thankfully, though, all of the songs are fundamentally great, regardless of placement. Influences are worn on the sleeves throughout - 'White Snake' lifts the keys of Devo and combines them with the hyperactive glam of a lost Sparks classic, whilst 'Space & the Woods' and its blatant Tubeway Army rip-offery is still as excellent as it was a year on from its initial release. As indebted as they are to pop of yesteryear, the way this is executed is so eccentric that it really feels like taking the old and making something new out of it, rather than the derivative revival (i.e. regurgitation) that most indie of the now seems to get away with.
And most of all, the album is fun. Everything from 'Focker', an aural assault and intense rockout that's simply impossible not to move to, through to the glorious album centrepiece 'The Enemy Are The Future' (think Vampire Weekend ingesting Crystal Castles and Metronomy through Zongamin, with enough of its own idiosyncrasy to carry its weight) seems so devoid of self-indulgence and stiff “it's all about the music, maaan” ethos that 'real' music seems so concerned about. And yes, 'Bathroom Gurgle' remains untouched from its original form yet still sounds as fresh and mindbogglingly, utterly, truly, unarguably, ridiculously perfect as it did on release. All this, and one of the best tracks on the whole record is resigned to being a hidden one
It's rare that something can sound so new and innovative, yet old and revived, and so bonkers yet entirely aware of what is going on, but Fantasy Black Channel hits this nail on the head. As overhype and unimagination veer indie music ever closer to the edge, a band that can really show themselves to be miles ahead of the game whilst making it seem so effortless is more than welcome.