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Lug 24 2009, 14:38

I’ve come a little late to the Late of the Pier party but, by golly, now I’m here I’m making up for lost time, eating all the twiglets, drinking all the White Lightning and getting off with the second drunkest person at the party (after me) before vomming out of an upstairs bedroom window. Er, I mean that I’m very much enjoying listening to their debut album from last year, Fantasy Black Channel.



Highlights include:

The Bears Are Coming - On which a belching robot and Sweep the Dog duet over some Burundi drumming while an Atari 2600 malfunctions in the next room.



Bathroom Gurgle - Which re-invents The Time Warp for the noughties (“Put your hands on your waistline / and move your body to the bassline / and get your hands on some cheap wine!!”).



The Enemy Are The Future- Lead singer Sam Eastgate enters Stars in Their Eyes as David Bowie, before deciding halfway through his performance that his Bryan Ferry is much better. The resulting existential crisis prompts him to question the very nature of being (“Hard life, well it’s a hard a life, no it’s an easy life”), as a punk-funk-electro maelstrom whirls around him.

It is, in short, the diametric opposite of landfill indie. The best pop music is made by people who aren’t afraid of looking ridiculous and Late of the Pier have exactly this sort of fearlessness. It is not, to be fair, an album that you would turn to if you were looking for graceful elegance or consistency of mood. The record apparently had a long gestation period, with the band kicking around ideas over a period of two or three years, and it seems that, in the end, they and producer Erol Alkan just decided to chuck everything together to see what would stick. On occasion it comes apart at the seams slightly: several tracks end somewhat haphazardly, with the band running out of steam and, once, Eastgate exclaiming “Oh shit!” as everything comes to a stop. But every track is fun, furiously fast, and brilliantly inventive.

I don’t know how old the band members are, but this sounds very much like an album made by young men. It’s in the mopey, distinctly teenage whine of many of the lyrics (“suicide’s in my blood, it always was”, “lately I’ve been thinking this whole world seems too hard”) and also in the sense you get that they are breaking the rules of musical composition mainly because they haven’t yet learnt what those rules are. I almost hope that they never make a follow-up, because it’s going to be hard to top the perfect adolescent insanity of this record and it would be a shame if they matured only to struggle with “that difficult second album” syndrome. But we’ll see...

The only regrettable moment I have had with this album was when I was listening to it on the top deck of a bus and a group of skinny-jeaned, ridiculously-hairstyled teens sat down behind me and began shrieking about the minutiae of their lives at a decibel level great enough to pierce through the highest volume of my iPod. The combination of nu-rave soundtrack and annoying yoofs was a little like trying to go about my business with an episode of Skins being broadcast in widescreen directly over my shoulder. It says a lot about Fantasy Black Channel that even that heinous experience was not enough to detract from its brilliance.

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