Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop, Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
Alongside the au courant balladeer Sam Smith, Clean Bandit are forcing the spotlight to shift north of LDN, towards the blue fens of Cambridgeshire. Between them, they’re currently dominating the UK chart, and the latter is set to hog even more of the glow in the wake of their eagerly-anticipated debut LP, entitled New Eyes. We’ve been waiting with bated breath since 2012, and though we’ve had a slew of Top 40-bothering singles, this will be the first time that the four-piece have produced a longform product.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. In retrospect, the subtle marketing campaign of Clean Bandit's New Eyes was brilliant. By announcing themselves as a "classical-electronic" hybrid group, they attracted music snobs all over the web ready to tear into how stupid such a hybrid would be, all of whom would listen to the first three or four songs before going off on their Tumblrs about how the band represented the death of music.
The British electronic four-piece Clean Bandit mash classical music and pop forms for an airy and dreamy yet driven sound that's like the chamber music version of house music. It's a sound best experienced on "Mozart's House," a well-built number that opens the group debut effort New Eyes with some tasteful, ultra-sheen beats and some clever rapping ("Little touch up, pizzicato/Relax the tempo, sip some rubato/And if I get too animated/Tan my face with adagietto"), and all while the world of cheese is kept at arm's length. Clean Bandit are just too in love with music and too smart to let the songs fall into gimmicky Enigma territory, and they're too inventive to be easily explained off as something like Apocalyptica, the string quartet that plays Metallica numbers, but at an album's length, they're still challenged.
We'll probably look back on this as a golden age of British electronic music, like the first days of disco, as unprepossessing producer types coax thunderous hits out of vocalists no one's heard of and live shows are euphoric, with dozens of people on stage. Clean Bandit, friends of Disclosure and Rudimental, couldn't be more 2014 – four Cambridge graduates (two of whom met in a string quartet) operating out of a council-funded studio in Kilburn, they found some of these guest singers on a kind of music tech apprentice scheme. But if that all sounds a bit "austerity", they're marked out by their old-fashioned sense of 1980s pop entitlement – as seen in those lavish, pan-global videos (drum kits under waterfalls; Lily Cole as a mermaid) – and by their commitment to dead men's music.
Clean Bandit’s ‘Rather Be’ – which delivered a fusion of house and classical music when it was released back in January – was a Number One single. It worked because it sounded heartfelt, rather than contrived. Sadly, that can’t be said for the rest of the Cambridge band’s debut album ‘New Eyes’. Several songs here – the execrably smug ‘Mozart’s House’ among them – give the impression that the classical strings have been thrown into the mix because that’s what Clean Bandit do, rather than in service to the song.
‘Come Over (ft. Stylo G)’. That’s the moment. The moment it becomes all too clear that someone on a lofty office floor, with cartoon-like dollar signs in their carnivorous eyes, has meddled with Clean Bandit’s eagerly-awaited debut album. It’s a post-Sean Paul monstrosity; a slickly ….
As befits a band currently riding high – their single Rather Be is the fastest-selling of the year so far – the debut album by Clean Bandit opens bullishly. The first thing you hear is a cocksure defence of dance music against those who would decry it as lightweight or meaningless: the same people, presumably, that Rolling Stone magazine was targeting when it released that online advert claiming that house, techno et al were but a passing fad, destined to wither any moment in the face of "real music". This seems a remarkably optimistic hypothesis, given that it's nearly 30 years since Jack Your Body made No 1, but there's presumably somebody out there thick enough to believe it, and Clean Bandit have them in their sights.
"So you think electro music is boring, it's stupid, it's repetitive? Well, it is repetitive." These are the opening lines on Clean Bandit's debut album New Eyes. The track, 'Mozart's House', has been around for a while, but sticking it up at the front of the record places it as an opening gambit. They're throwing down the gauntlet to themselves, with the giddy enthusiasm of the maverick with the synth at end-of-year revue at the music academy, enlisting his virtuoso violinist mates to really blow the cobwebs out of the fuddy-duddies.