The Power Out
By: Eric Greenwood
It's weird how certain bands can remind you of so many others within seconds, yet still sound unique and invigorating. Electrelane is a female quartet from Brighton, England, playing jangly guitar-rock rooted in post-punk with flourishes of Stereolab and The Pretenders. The spooky organ bits subtlely underpin the minimal guitar/bass interplay amidst the loose, almost jammy framework (similar to the band's debut on Mr. Lady). The vocals can be gruff as well as serene, harmonizing in unexpected places, but it all fuses together with that nagging feeling that you should be paying attention.
The repetitive, almost tribal drumming smacks of amateurism, yet seems to recall the glorious tension building of long-forgotten Too Pure label-mates, th' Faith Healers. The attitude is unquestionably art school, as Electrelane emulates Wire's minimal art-punk with a latent prog bent. "On Parade" packs a nervous punch like something off The Feelies' Crazy Rhythms, and that's nothing to scoff at. The backing male chorus on "The Valleys" pushes The Power Out into a weird and decidedly experimental field. Well, let's just be honest and call it pretentious.
Sometimes, pretension is good, though. Sometimes. Bandleader, Verity Susman not only quotes Neitzsche but also manages to get her obtuse points across in at least four languages without even sounding smug about it. Instead, she sounds bored and cool and, maybe, a little scary. The wailing on "This Deed" builds on top of a fuzz guitar and piano-laced crescendo that will cause your hand instinctively to replay said delight to heart's content. Incidentally, I'm on my third go round and heart still not content. And wait until you hear the out-of-left-field new wave robotic rocker "Only One Thing Is Needed." Holy shit.
Analog nazi Steve Albini gives The Power Out his trademark thwomp, so you know it rocks when it needs to. This album totally sneaks up on you. It won't bowl you over instantly, but let it sink in. You'll find yourself recommending it to anyone that will listen.