Release Date: Nov 9, 2010
Record label: Friendly Fire
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Violens would probably forgive you for saying they sound a bit like The Zombies—provided you don’t stop there. The Lansing-Dreiden offshoot packs quite a punch with a debut borrowing feedback from My Bloody Valentine, attitude from Roxy Music, angst from scores of John Hughes films and, yes, more than just a few ’60s harmonies. Amoral is an overstuffed buffet of sounds—the driving bass and Shins-like structures of triumphant opener “The Dawn of Your Happiness Is Rising” announcing it to be an all-you-can-eat affair.
It's been a long time since Lansing-Dreiden's The Dividing Island, and those who hold it in high esteem have been waiting for this solid encore. Lansing-Dreiden turned some people off with their anonymous art-collective presentation/shtick, but those who did bother to listen got an earful of bold and all-embracing pop music. .
Amoral kicks off with a sharp, springy bass riff leading into "The Dawn of Your Happiness," an aptly named slice of buoyant, Beatlesque power pop in the vein of XTC or Jellyfish. It's a stunning, unexpected opening move coming from a hiply appointed N.Y.C. rock band c. 2010, but it turns out to be something of a bait-and-switch.
A few months ago, Violens gave away a mixtape to create anticipation for their debut LP, Amoral. It featured various remixes, a previously viral song written with Chairlift's Caroline Polachek set to the video for Justin Bieber's "Never Let You Go", as well as a cut called "Space Around the Feel Station", a mashup of Washed Out's "Feel It All Around" and Slowdive's "Souvlaki Space Station". The result sounded exactly how you'd expect-- it's a god-awful mess-- but it also highlighted an important facet of the NYC new-wave outfit's personality: They aren't cool, and they never really have been, even though bandleader Jorge Elbrecht did time in the enigmatic, now-dormant 1980s-worshipping collective Lansing-Dreiden.
There is something uniquely disappointing in seeing a film and realising the best bits were in the trailer. The film might still be decent enough, it may have other enjoyable moments, but the highlights, whether representative of the film or not, were all squeezed into a 60-second teaser. And then you wonder why you shelled out the cash to see it in the first place.
As summer begins to fade into memory, there are a number of bands seriously pondering the idea of changing their repertoire from sunny beach vibes to, well, something that achieves the complete opposite. Coming from Brooklyn’s quixotic vicinity, Violens open the fall with a desire to impersonate a sound that is far from their idiosyncratic behavior. Not to say that following a European posture is a bad thing, especially when we’ve seen a crop of C86, post-punk, and indie pop in Uncle Sam's yard far too many times.
Violens’ debut is baffling. They can produce a veritable smorgasbord of sounds, but it’s clear they’re not quite sure, much like their proggier and poppier peers Everything Everything, what to do with these sounds. There are more lovely pastiches and terrific tunes and magnificent textures here than most fit into two albums, let alone one, but there can always be too much of a good thing, and Violens are either trying to please everyone, or just trying to figure out how to please themselves.
What was the subtitle to our interview with Joy Division/New Order bassist Peter Hook? Oh right: “Nostalgia is a funny thing…” This is explicitly true for the nostalgia for Hook’s own past, for that 80’s New Wave sound of which he was at the vanguard. And New York’s Violens are there in the thick of it, adding dashes of Smiths-y hooks and other 80’s British treats. But, as is typical with nostalgia, it can leave you feeling bittersweet.