(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Recording review - Wunder Wunder, Everything Infinite (2014)

Retro rehash, with occasional glints of interest

Is anyone else getting tired of the glut of twee retro bands? Sure, jangle and reverb are cool, but there’s got to be a limit. Wunder Wunder’s spin on this old game is to aim for the sound of a pop psychedelic band plucked from 1967 and whisked forward to the present, where a modern producer introduces them to electronic tones and helps them make a record that bridges the decades. If they had succeeded at this, it would have been great. Unfortunately, they don’t achieve that degree of originality or excitement. Instead, they’re just another band obsessed with the past that can’t quite let go of their modern instruments and sensibility. Ironically, they produce their strongest material when they fully indulge their craving for headier times, but Everything Infinite hits the wall on the tunes where they break character and slip into more recent pop fluff. Since their two extremes can’t quite meet, the album is disappointingly uneven.

The opening run of songs shows most of what the band has on offer. They lead off with the title track, a beautiful Beatlesque bit of psychedelia. The intro is starker than the Fab Four would do it, suggesting a power pop setup, but it quickly finds its footing with echoing vocals and a strong McCartney style bass line. While they decorate the tune with occasional fountains of anachronistic synth arpeggios, this is as close as they come to any kind of time traveling ideal. “Coastline” gamely throws in some old school flanger and the same echoed singing, this time summoning more of a sunny ’70s sound. Unfortunately, the skinny keyboard tone and flat mix feel cheesy after the richer sound of “Everything Infinite”. As they continue, they completely lose their mojo early into the third song, “Hail the Madmen”. The track is a muddled mess of random ideas, executed as an animatronic interpretation of danceable ’80s music. The chorus celebrates a mundane mindlessness with inane lyrics, “Hail the madmen/ Help me get you off the street/ Hey, you madmen/ You need some time off your feet.

Then, Wunder Wunder pulls it together for another gem, “Trouble in Utopia”. They can’t resist some programmed percussion, but the trippy radiance overwhelms the cross-time distractions. Meditative repetition and bubbling tones create a wonderfully skewed sense of surrealism, which is propelled forward by the steady pacing of the arrangement. The tune peaks with a chaotic jam that feels like they’re self-consciously sifting for the perfect frequency combination to blow our minds. The lyrics declare trouble, but Utopia trumps. Still, as nice as this is, it definitely whets my appetite for the real thing, like The Moody Blues or Strawberry Alarm Clock. This only grows stronger by the time that “Sure Stuck” kicks in. The verses borrow heavily from The Bangles’ “Walk Like An Egyptian” and while the other sections turn up the paisley, they still can’t make it sound original.

Wunder Wunder is certainly adept at harnessing sunshine spaciness on Everything Infinite, but that’s hardly a unique skill. Their compatriots, Tame Impalas, have that ground well covered and have done a better job of updating the ideas beyond their nostalgic value. To break out ahead of the retro pack, Wunder Wunder will need to find their voice and work out a better melding between the Summer of Love and the summer of 2014.

(This review first appeared on Spectrum Culture)

No comments:

Post a Comment