Release Date: Sep 22, 2009
Record label: Mercury
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
It would be sweet if this London trio had opted for the name Noisettes because it was French for hazelnut, but in fact they were just trying to convey the idea that they're noisy. Or were - but that was in their freewheeling indie days. Now signed to a major, and apparently on the verge of a Ting Tings-style breakthrough, Noisettes have become a sophisticated pop group whose focal point is the talented singer/bassist Shingai Shoniwa.
“Indie is boring, dead and over,” said Noisettes singer Shingai Shoniwa recently to the Guardian, and whatever your opinion, everyone should breathe a holy sigh of relief that she has hers. While much has been made of their leap from ‘indie’ to the charts, the truth is that the Noisettes were never much of an indie band. Their last album, What’s the Time Mr Wolf, was a semi-bizarre run-through of most of the major guitar genres, more notedly glam-rock, pub-rock, punk-rock and, er, Andrew Lloyd Webber, but not really indie.
The Noisettes shift gears in Wild Young Hearts, thrusting full-speed unexpectedly into waves of retro-soul and disco-pop. Sometimes it feels like a sappy 1970s prom soundtrack with tardy beats and lyrics like, “I’ll never forget you/They said we’d never make it/My sweet joy/Always remember me” in “Never Forget You.” Overall, it’s a moody pop album. The trio establishes catchy lyrics and feet-tapping rhythms, but the words are plain and the beats sound too familiar to reach dance ecstasy.
Noisettes' first album, What's the Time, Mr. Wolf?, was much better in theory than execution. For every rager about pioneering gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe's deserved place in the pantheon, and for how much Noisettes singer Shingai Shoniwa channeled the rowdiest chicks to ever rock a mic, the strong magnetic lure of assembly-line modern rock pulled the album toward the same bland end of the spectrum that claimed CSS last year.
Retro-rock trio gets a dance-pop makeover An international buzz band upon the release of 2007’s What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?, their steamrolling debut set of garage blues and soulful punk, Noisettes seemed poised to carve out a long career as the 21st century’s answer to Janis Joplin’s work with Big Brother and the Holding Company. Just two years later, you’d be hard-pressed to find a band that has undergone a bigger renovation, as the London trio downplays the sweaty swagger and musicianship of their previous work in favor of sleekly eclectic overview of the last 50 years of pop music.
With a frontwoman so commanding and unassuming, it was only a matter of time before Noisettes decided to push Shingai Shoniwa out front for the sake of commercial viability after partially burying her in the clamor and modern-rock sludge of their debut album, What’s The Time, Mr. Wolf. (That’s her face in the center of the album cover.) It’d be like if Yeah Yeah Yeahs buried Karen O.’s vocals on “Maps” in layers of fuzz.
The Noisettes are raving hot in Britain, and the British/American popular music dichotomy plays a significant role in how to approach them, hitting the Top of the Pops back home but playing tiny venues across the States. So here, we have the Noisettes appealing to the trendsetters; just like Astralwerks pulls EMI’s international pop stars and pitches them to people in the States as “indie”, Universal has on their hands a band that seems a premade—and likely permanent – VH1 Band to Watch. After an album’s worth of middling blues-rock a la the Dirtbombs (less punk) or the White Stripes (less personality) and dates with TV on the Radio and Tom Vek, the Noisettes return in a shinier, more accessible guise.
IT has been 10 years since the Brooklyn rapper Mos Def, a k a Dante Terrell Smith, released his debut, “Black on Both Sides.” In the interim he’s honed his acting chops, winning an Obie for his work Off Broadway, nabbing an Emmy nomination for a television movie and appearing in successively larger film roles. And he has steadily recorded albums, earning three Grammy nominations. He picks up where he left off with his fourth album, “The Ecstatic” (Downtown Records), scheduled for release on June 9.