In a sentence:
They were so bizarre when they emerged back in 2007, but Yeasayer are losing their edge with every passing album in 2019 on ‘Erotic Reruns’.
back from their odd-ball vaguely conceptual psych-pop escapades on 2016’s Amen
& Goodbye with Erotic Reruns
– an album that seems dead-set on tapping into that same formula Portugal. The
Man tapped in on to secure their 10 seconds of radio play fame with ‘Feel It
Still’. Thirty minutes of chopped up basslines, chirpy chords, and one-two
marching beats later, you’re left about as unimpressed and jaded as after a
half-hour commercial break.
Way back in 2007, when indie hipsterdom was seemingly at its
peak, Yeasayer hit the blogosphere-led scene hard with their debut All Hour Cymbals. Even
amongst the to-be indie classics released around the same time, such as MGMT’s Oracular
Spectacular, they managed to find their own footing with their very
particular brand of spirituality and psychedelia brandishings, that were
somehow equal parts conceptual, self-aware, and strange, yet welcoming in their
positive trippy-ness. Despite All Hour
Cymbals now safely securing a place somewhere in the footnotes of 2000s
indie canon, with each subsequent release the band seemed to increasingly fail
to re-capture that same out-of-nowhere chaotic melting pot of influences
approach that made that debut so exciting. Their sophomore release Odd Blood, while containing some
memorable singles that are still staples in the band’s discography, failed to
hold up as a consistent record listening experience. Meanwhile, 2012’s Fragrant World saw the band
seemingly try and jump at whatever minimalist electronica wave The xx were
starting in indie at the time, to little impact.
At this point, one could almost make Yeasayer out to be
calculated trend hoppers. However, the band then doubled down on their
strangest creative impulses on Amen &
Goodbye, releasing what (I think) was meant to be a dense, conceptual
album, even if a concrete message did get lost somewhere along the vague
allusions to religious and scientific concepts. Sadly, now, with Erotic Reruns, they are yet again
stirring the pot of whatever seemed to be on the margins of popular
consciousness in terms of indie music to find their 2019 sound.
Opener ‘People I Loved’ features all of the previously mentioned DNCE/Maroon 5/Whatever else is on your local “alternative” radio station tropes. If you listen very carefully, you might recognise something distinctly Yeasayer about the track, like the ever-so-slightly dark synthesizers (that sadly mostly disappear into the mix after the first two chords) and the occasional reverbed woodwinds (??? hard to tell with MIDI instruments sometimes) that few other bands would randomly place in a track for little reason other than Why Not. But for the listener who’s not intent on listening in to musically cherry pick for familiarity of a band they got high to in the 2000s, any semblance of the subtle experimentalism the band was lauded for is lost in the sound of suburban moms tapping their steering wheel.
Follow up ‘Ecstatic Baby’ is the
band’s clear attempt at one of those sweet, sweet delicious chart positions.
About seven years ago. In fairness to Yeasayer, there’s nothing actually horrible
about the songwriting. The song is perfectly serviceable, even including its
over half-minute bridge of Pet Sounds-worship.
One can hardly imagine anyone being offended if it came on at a barbeque or an
upper-middle-class beach volleyball tournament after-party. It’s all just so…
The relative highlights of the release come when the band halfway drop the records ridiculously sunny disposition, at least in theme. The band’s strengths still clearly lie in odd lyrical connections, with the instrumentals dipping their little toe in the muddy waters of “experimental harmony” and the like. ‘Let Me Listen In On You’, for example, while being yet another point in the case of one of the members having a Brian Wilson shrine somewhere in their bedrooms, comes off as just unnerving enough with its surveillance commentary subtext (bordering on just text) lyrics juxtaposed against dreamy melodies. Meanwhile, ‘24-Hour Hateful Live!’ is the most obviously politically charged and actually bop-inducing track on the record, that goes down almost well enough to not even make you question if Yeasayer are really the best band to be commenting on the current absurdity of the 24-hour news cycle.
There is something commendable in the idea of a band trying
to be fresh and relevant, well past what many regard to be their shining moment.
Erotic Reruns, sadly, for the most
part, makes you forget that you’re trying not to be a bitter old rock dad,
never quite over the passing of the “prime of indie rock”. But honestly, kids,
back in the day, All Hour Cymbals was
actually really good, I swear. (5/10)
Listen to Erotic Reruns by Yeasayer here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Anand Wilder, Chris Keating, Erotic Reruns, Ira Wolf Tuton, review, Yeasayer
Currently studying Mathematics and Music at Leeds University. Generally a fan of all things musical, cultural, and pretentious. Values aesthetic way too much.
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