Release Date: Mar 15, 2011
Record label: Republic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
If you were judging by the name, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’d given Katie Price’s first band the Philip Hall Radar Award, or that the BBC Sound Of 2011 poll had given a nod to a tongue-in-cheek [a]Lady Gaga[/a] spin-off act. But no, [a]The Naked And Famous[/a] are the latest dash of New Zealand’s music out of the choking black shadow of Crowded House. Core duo Thom Powers (fittingly, like a superhuman Mr Yorke) and Alisa Xayalith (approximately 334 points in Scrabble) embrace guitar-gilded electro pop with an unrefined, outsider’s poise and artfulness that set them apart from the identikit ’80s revivalists rolling synthfully off the major-label conveyor belt the past two years.
You might not know it, but New Zealanders know how to make music. Passive Me, Aggressive You, the debut release from Auckland natives, The Naked and Famous is an album brimming with high energy, catchy pop-infused melodies. The combination of emotional anthems and fast paced, synthesized power ballads blend together to create a record that will keep you engaged from start to finish.
Listening to the Naked and Famous' guttingly good 2011 full-length debut, Passive Me Aggressive You, one thing is clear: this band loves a hot chorus. More often than not on the New Zealand indie electronic ensemble's album, songs like the immediately addictive leadoff cut, "All of This," seem to be building to their catchy and cathartic pinnacle as soon as they start. Every fuzzed-out synth, distorted drumbeat, and slow-zipper guitar line seems to foretell of an impending dance-rock orgy of melody.
Beneficiaries of much NME hype, not to mention a gong for best up-and-coming band at the magazine's recent awards, Auckland's Naked and Famous may find it hard to translate all that stuff into tangible success outside New Zealand. It's not that Passive Me, Aggressive You isn't fine in its own way. The group's high regard for MGMT, Nine Inch Nails and the shoegaze era has been distilled into a sound that's admittedly derivative, yet packed with interest in the shape of brilliant melodies and layers of dreamy distortion.
Last year, halfway around the world, The Naked and Famous unleashed, with the purest of intentions, Passive Me, Aggressive You in their homeland of New Zealand, and on its journey to America, something was lost. Singers and centers Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers seemed to have absorbed every album from the glory days of synth-pop and post-punk. From the Human League to Muse to MGMT, they wear these influences over their own sound like an oversized motley coat.
I remember quite well the first time I visited New York City in my “adult” life. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving, and my friends and I had arrived in typical collegiate fashion – crammed inside an old two-door car, $400 down from a speeding ticket on the turnpike, and overly enthusiastic for a weekend of regret-free indiscretions. Now, I’m not entirely proud of what ensued, but I refuse to apologize either.
This New Zealand-based group mix glitchy, dreamy electronic pop and occasional outbursts of static-ridden noise with male-female duet vocals from Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers that sound like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke whispering back and forth with Natasha Bedingfield. Many songs have a steady drum-machine thump to keep the listener’s attention focused, even as the low-key vocals nudge toward narcosis. The best of these is the album-closing “Girls Like You,” which manages to meld Hi-NRG synths, a dubby post-punk bassline, some guitar fuzz and murmurs from Powers that lead into anthemic howling, with oohs and aahs from Xayalith in the background.
Strapping, festival-fit tunes from the New Zealand chart-toppers. Kevin Harley 2011 The last thing any fresh-faced band wants to hear is "hold your horses", but the slow-burn rise to fame can have ameliorating effects. Auckland’s The Naked and Famous topped New Zealand’s chart with their debut single, a synth-pop fist-pumper called Young Blood, and they’ve spoken about their hunger to bust their country’s confines and repeat its success elsewhere.