Review : Weird Dreams - Choreography
PitchforkIs there a crueler mistress in rock'n'roll than jangly power pop? For people of a certain generation (and those who wish they were born in it), there is no purer form of pop music-- the gilded group harmonies, the pristine hooks, the ringing Rickenbacker chords that are the very definition of perfect sound forever. It's a music that sounds like the eternal promise and euphoria of youth-- and yet, it's a strain of rock music that hasn't been purchased by teenagers in large quantities since, oh, 1965, while some of the more valiant but failed attempts to revive it on mass level have driven its adherents to career-killing seclusion (see: Lee Mavers of the La's), suicide (half of Badfinger), or reactionary psychobilly records (Alex Chilton). But, in spite of the genre's no-hope commercial prospects and oddly tragic history, there are always new recruits who entrust themselves with the daunting task of breathing new life into an almost 50-year-old artform. And, invariably, the ones who modestly succeed approach jangly power-pop not as some historical reenactment of a bygone golden age, but as a gauzy lens that magnifies the impossibility of ever living in one.
London four-piece Weird Dreams takes this logic one step further, by recasting the exuberance of mid-1960s Beatles and Byrds as a manifestation of modern-day social anxieties and sleep-depravation-induced paranoia: the band's frontman, Doran Edwards, introduces himself on Choreography by proudly declaring, "I live in an empty room where the shadows call my name"; his most endearing love song ("Hurts So Bad") is a paean to emotional masochism. In this sense, Weird Dreams' true spiritual antecedents aren't the aforementioned classic-rock touchstones, but the Soft Boys, the rare first-wave post-punk band to draw inspiration from pop's paisley period and give it a subversive spin. Weird Dreams' Edwards may not possess the same flair for absurdity and perversity as the young Robyn Hitchcock, but Choreography strikes a similarly uncanny balance between reverence and deviance for their sources-- what sticks with you isn't so much the crystalline guitar lines and misty-eyed melodies as the mischievous sense that something more sinister is lurking beneath all the pretty surfaces....full text
NoripcordThe usual argument thatís put forth to dismiss a standard four piece guitar format tilts between these: either their ideas are distributed too broadly across the map, or theyíre a blatant facsimile of a pioneering band that should remain better left untouched. Yes, itís tough to change the musical landscape with a clever hook or a guitar crunch these days. And in this age of immediacy, what was once thought of as a crowning example of superiority becomes a mirror image with a young, highly skilled replicator. It isnít a willing rejection against an outmoded idol with its contemporary counterpart, but rather a case of a listener responding to what is within his or her reach.
Specifying a rock group as an innovator among a field of plenty becomes a rather redundant exercise, even laughable to some. It may have taken less than half a decade to stretch out pop music as far as it could, but the need to stand out is more imperative than ever before Ė weíve reached a point where the imitator imitates imitation, sifting through an index section of influences thatís even longer than the actual thesis itself. That lack of history, of not knowing how to put your finger on anything too specific, is actually what has inspired todayís most challenging compositions. And thatís really the best way to approach Weird Dreams Ė the East London outfit are skimming through the pages of rock ní roll with a certainty that some of what they are implying in their sound is or has been worthy of note at one time or the other.
Who knows what inspired Weird Dreams to come up with the exemplary opener Vague Hotel Ė it starts with a brash acoustic strum straight out of a Kinks tune with handclaps and a hard-charging floor tom thump, applying force until it unexpectedly ricochets back and forth between reverb-laden strings and chiming, propulsive jangle. If they didnít make it clear enough that Choreography is meant to be a pop record, Hurts so Bad circles at constant speed with an insouciant merry-go-round harmony that, when listened to carefully, actually underlines a relationship that functions when subjected to the ecstatic pleasures of masochism. The honey-eyed Holding Nails follows with that same mid-tempo shimmer of their contemporaries Spectrals and Beach Fossils but with more of a bite to it, ending on a coda that isnít afraid to stress the same melody with a hearty solo and gives it a romantic closure. The band does find a common ground with recent jangle pop revivalists, but they replace the usual laissez-faire of the genre with a rich, full-bodied recording that strays away from loop-based composing or ad-lib garage primitivism....full text
HangoutWeird Dreams began life from behind the walls of a vintage clothing shop when two of its employees; vocalist/guitarist Doran Edwards and drummer Craig Bowers struck up a friendship over frequent conversations that revolved around 50's pop, 60's girl groups and the films of David Lynch. Influenced by the idealistic sentiment of the pop records from those decades, the twisted surrealism of Lynch's movies (which often reference 50's culture) and his propensity for having incredibly vivid dreams, Edwards sought to create a sound dreamier than those early pop records with lyrics expressing much darker and resentful emotions.
Edwards and Bowers released a self titled EP in 2010 after which they recruited James Wignall on guitar and Hugo Edwards on bass and followed up with 2011's "Hynagogic Lullaby" EP. "Choreography" collects songs from both of those EP's alongside new material and it's a strikingly consistent listen from start to finish, never once coming off as a piecemeal collection. In fact, upon first playing the album, I was left with the impression that I'd just listened to a cohesive singles collection that was perhaps documenting a once forgotten band who despite writing solid songs, never got their due. The chances of Weird Dreams being written off in such a fashion are pretty much next to none; this is a band that clearly knows how to build from their influences rather than merely wearing them on their sleeves and more than a handful of songs on "Choreography" sound like potential radio singles:...full text
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