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CocoRosie, "Noah's Ark"

I'm not entirely certain whether CocoRosie should actually be considered a musical group, or just a collection of willful, calculated eccentricities clumsily juxtaposed with each other.


Touch and Go

CocoRosie - Noah's Ark

The whole existence of CocoRosie represents only the newest in a recent run of decisive victories of style over substance, surface over depth. This sounds like the opening to a very dismissive trashing of the duo's new album Noah's Ark, and perhaps it is, but I also don't want to ignore or downplay the shiny, effervescent superficialities that conspire to create a seductive and undeniably intriguing album (though its intriguing for all the wrong reasons).

CocoRosie are two American sisters who reunited, after a long separation, in Paris; trust-fund babies who caught wind of the freak-folk current typified by Devendra Banhart and the Golden Apples stable. Their first album was a conscious bandwagon-jump, with purposely low-fidelity recordings of the two sisters harmonizing with creepily contrived infantile vocals (a la Joanna Newsom, but without the musical chops), singing along to music-box melodies or clunky programmed rhythms. The Casady sisters appeared in publicity shots in self-consciously retro 1920s European flapper-wear and make-up, looking an awful lot like The Dresden Dolls. Their style has slowly morphed over the past couple years of touring into an almost transcendent form of deliberate tackiness, culminating in the album cover for Noah's Ark, with its crude drawings of unicorns and vomiting zebras gleefully humping under a rainbow projected from a pentagram tattooed on a Care Bear's forehead.

The sisters themselves look terrible, with partial moustaches, mullets, ugly tie-died clothes and clashing Native American jewelry. I'm spending so much time on the visual tactics of CocoRosie because it seems to be at least as, if not more, important than the music itself. This time out, the girls are assisted by French hip-hop beat-boxer Spleen, who provides some clunky, junky, unfunky beats over which the Casady sisters can strain themselves trying to sound like crippled midgets with foetal alcohol syndrome crying for their mothers in a cartoon faerie land. Noah's Ark is the soundtrack to those psychedelic Lisa Frank trapper-keepers that grade-school girls fancied during the My Little Pony-infested 80s. It's studied in its mastery of faux-naive posturing, and in some ways represents a remarkable feat of substance-less, free-floating postmodernity.

Take the album's opening track, "K-Hole," which renders the disassociative experience of Ketamine in nightmarishly jubilant lyrical couplets like: "God will come and wash away/Our tattoos and all the cocaine/And all of the aborted babies/Will turn into little Bambies" and "I dreamt one thousand basketball courts/Nothing holier than sports." I must admit that something inside of me is attracted to such warped surreality, but the song is couched in instantly recognizable Bjork-isms and can't help but seem like a style parody. Other tracks use a similar palette, skeletal melodies and ramshackle beat programming, with vocal multi-tracking and an arsenal of superfluous psychedelic touches, none of it remarkable musically. Several guest stars feature prominently, most notably the recent Mercury Prize winner Antony, who donates vocals to "Beautiful Boyz," a paean to prison sex; and Devendra Banhart, who warbles in Spanish on "Brazilian Sun." Along the way, Diane Cluck, Jana Hunter and some French rapper also make appearances, desperately trying to pad the album with artistic heft, so that no one will notice the undernourished, bulimic 13-year-old girl at the heart of the album. Please, someone feed her and pay attention to her. I can't do it, but somebody really should.

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The Eye: Video of the Day

Ted Leo

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Review of the Day

The Anniversary/Superdrag Tour CD EP
A few months ago I reviewed the Superdrag tour EP "Greetings From Tennessee", and I commented on how little I liked the release because it seemed like the songwriting had slipped. It seemed only die-hard fans could appreciate the EP, as the mixes were not great, and the songs weren't the hard-hitting strength one would expect from Superdrag. Well, Superdrag released this split tour EP with The Anniversary shortly after "Greetings", and two of their tracks were also on that release, so I held off. Until I heard recently that the band had rerecorded those tracks and mixed them themselves specifically for this release. In fact, all tracks were recorded just for this release, and although I'd never heard The Anniversary, I took a chance. I'm glad I did. Not only are the Superdrag tracks much better here, The Anniversary are happily a band I am pleased to recommend. They are a bit complex, The Anniversary. Shuffling styles and identities on the fly, the only constant being the powerful vocal harmonies, The Anniversary have the sound of a band that's never happy with one direction, and that's just fine. Hastily written and recorded, as the liner notes announce, these tracks are psychedelic power pop, speaking of redemption and strength in numbers. There's even a humorous moment on the second track, 'Anais', where an aborted start is ridiculed by all involved. Funny stuff. As for the Superdrag tracks, they definitely redeem themselves and reclaim the tracks, as they are much more powerful and, for lack of a better term, crunchy here. You can tell that they wanted to get the power of these songs across better, and that John Davis wail is back, I'm pleased to announce. And you can hear all of the instruments well, which is always a plus. The double-tracked vocals on 'Take Your Spectre Away', originally a track the band was working on for their sophomore album, are a nice touch, as they just drive the band to a complete frenzy towards the end of the track. There's one new one here, 'I Guess It's American,' and it's classic Superdrag: poppy, angry guitar, and Davis singing about what's wrong with this system. "If you ever pull that shit again/Never see you the same way again," says Davis, right before proclaiming "I guess it's American/it's embarrassin'." Indeed. Here, though, The Anniversary and Superdrag prove that real American rock is still anything but, and it's worth it to give these tracks a listen. - 

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