Electrelane

The Power Out

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Electrelane's second album, The Power Out, is also their debut for the esteemed, arty British label Too Pure, the perfect home for a band that resembles so many of the imprint's other acts. The similarities appear early on, with the Stereolab-eqsue motorik and French vocals that drive "Gone Under Sea," the wobbly-yet-charming singing on "Birds" that recalls Pram's Rosie Cuckston, and the intricate interplay of guitars and keyboards on every track that bring to mind th' Faith Healers (and their later incarnation, Quickspace). But these similarities are far from derivative; instead, on The Power Out, Electrelane feel like they're in the tradition of these other messy, angular, decidedly British art-punk bands, so much so that it's hard to imagine the band on any other label (with all due respect to Mr. Lady, who released Electrelane's debut, Rock It to the Moon). But even though the group perfectly defines the way that so many British art-school bands have sounded since the late '70s, in Electrelane's hands it still seems fresh. The Power Out also seems fresher than Rock It to the Moon, perhaps because, paradoxically, it's more focused than their debut. That's a relative term, though; the noodly, jam-based feel that dominated Rock It to the Moon is still here, particularly on The Power Out's more rock-based songs such as "Take the Bit Between Your Teeth" and the closing instrumentals, "Only One Thing Is Needed" and "You Make Me Weak at the Knees." But overall, the songs are more concise here, giving songs like "On Parade" and the lovely "Enter Laughing" an immediate, if not exactly poppy, feel. The band finds different ways to channel the ambitions it so boldly displayed on Rock It to the Moon: "Oh Sombra!" is an eerie, passionate song fashioned from a sonnet from Spanish poet Juan Boscan, and "This Deed" borrows a line from Nietzsche to fit its appropriately dramatic air. Most striking of all is "The Valleys," a choral rock piece that features Chicago A Cappella and Verity Sussman's arresting vocals, and attains a ceremonial, spiritual grandeur that hasn't been seen in many rock records save the Microphones' Mount Eerie. The Power Out manages to be unique without being a radical departure, and it augurs more good things for Electrelane's stint with Too Pure.

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