Monday, 5 May 2008
'The Colourful Life'
Why write a review of an album a week after its release? You will already have bought it, formed your own opinions, or (God forbid) have read another review of North London group Cajun Dance Party's debut - 'The Colourful Life'. For once I won't use the "too much work" excuse, and instead will proceed to blame HMV - I only actually received the album on Saturday having preordered it a week before in the knowledge that I wouldn't be able to go and buy it until the weekend - in retrospect, I might as well have just waited. However, at £6.99 with free delivery, I'm not going to dwell on it too much. I will persevere with the review though, because having been waving their flag for well over a year now I think it's about time I actually wrote about Cajun Dance Party. The reviews this album has received have been pretty mixed, but I think in general it's been given a fairly average reception. And why is this? You could blame the hype, you could blame production, the vocals, the lyrics, the music - some reviews have attempted to do this. However, the only real problem with this album as far as I can see is that the majority of the music is all so familiar now. There were only two songs on the album that were completely new to me - every other song I'd heard a demo version of. By all means it's a great album - if a tad short -but part of the joy of listening to a new album is hearing new material, things you've never heard the artist do before. That's probably why, for me, the stand-out tracks are the lovely, melodious, jerky yet smooth 'No Joanna' and the schizophrenic duet of 'The Hill, The View and The Lights' which sees keyboardist Vicky Freund showing off her beautiful vocals. Some reviewers have criticized lead singer Daniel Blumberg's vocals, and in some songs he does seem to come off a bit strong, but songs like 'No Joanna' and 'Buttercups' really showcase the talent the guy has. When his vocals are stripped down to such simplicity and he's not straining to be heard over the music there is a touching warmth and intimacy to the vocals which few singers could pull off. Then there's the whole lyrics debate. You're not allowed to be rude about lyrics just because you don't understand them. An example of a song with bad lyrics: Nickleback - 'Rockstar' (WHY is that song still toying with a top ten place on iTunes?!). There is no subtlety to those lyrics, no depth; it's a song full of hideous clichés and bleurgh. Hate attack on Nickleback aside, let's look at Cajun's lyrics. Admittedly they're a bit abstract, and I'm not professing that "we'll swim through fields of hay" makes sense to me. But then, why should it? Lyrics are, surely, written by and for the songwriter? Their lyrics are actually about something as opposed to "wanting to be a rockstar". Plus, weird lyrics are pretty fun - I am fondly reminiscing singing 'My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama' with a friend of mine; gotta love the Zappa. Wow, that's irrelevant. With all of this in mind, here are my views track by track because I am pretentious enough to pretend you care: Colourful Life - was one of my favourites back in the demo days. I personally love the lyrics - 'pick up the pace and enjoy the race, 'cos nothingness is nice'. Mmm. It's a great song for summer, upbeat with fantastic melodies waltzing in with shimmering, uplifting chords on the keyboard and beautiful intertwining harmonies between the bass and the guitar. The Race - Frantic guitars and drums, a racy (no pun intended) bassline, thoughtful lyricism ('there's not enough time in any race'). This is the new single; video is below: Time Falls - Slow, climatic drums, building up to atmospheric guitars and vocals. Chockfull of world weariness - 'day comes, and I'm wondering what for'. Could have been improved with gentler vocals - I feel the lyrics speak for themselves, and don't need loud vocals to get their point across. The Next Untouchable - Cajun at their catchiest, with one of the most memorable riffs of recent times. This thing on the dance floor is absolute mayhem, and you'll be singing along by the end even if you've never heard it before. No Joanna - I've spoken about it already, but I'll do it some more. I love it. The musical arrangements are fantastic; soft, tense guitars complement the understated vocals and melancholy lyrics. Absolutely beautiful. This song shows why Cajun will be around for a long time yet. Amylase - The single of last summer. If you didn't understand why everyone had stuff about catalysts and saving games for never in their online names here's your chance to find out. The riff on strings is brilliant. The Firework - 'her smile is made of clay; takes time to mold, but creates a brighter day'. My friend and I used to do an insane rendition of the rap/breakdown at the end of this song, it still makes me smile when I hear it. An upbeat, catchy tale of unrequited love. Buttercups - This song takes you to hazy summer days; it's smooth, seductive and lovely. Jaded, delicate vocals over wonderful, laidback melodies. For those of you who heard earlier versions, you will be shocked to hear their new reaction to butterflies and picklebums. He used to not give a damn, now he doesn't give something a little stronger. The Hill, The View and The Lights - For some reason it reminds me of 'Black Wave/Bad Vibrations' - possibly the switch in melody and vocals half way through. It sounds really good and makes a great closer for the album, initially ambling along with graceful vocals, then suddenly turns aggressive with fierce music and vocals, fading out into mesh of weird and wonderful sounds. Then the lovely mellow sound returns, with both vocalists weaving in and out of one another, until it all slowly fades into nothingness. It was a bit frustrating having an album which upon first play you could sing along with nearly everything, but in many ways it means album number 2 (which will be heading our way later this year) will be full of the promise implicit in 'No Joanna' and 'The Hill, The View and The Lights'. I'm going to be honest - it's not amazing, it's not the best debut album ever. But it's good. And good is enough to keep the listeners eagerly waiting for part two. They're an extremely talented bunch, brimming with potential. Or maybe I got it all wrong? Your views are always appreciated. Apologies for another lengthy, poorly written post. On a side note, I want a t-shirt with those sunflowers on. www.myspace.com/cajundanceparty http://www.cajundanceparty.com/ Cajun Dance Party are: Max Bloom: Bass Guitar, Daniel Blumberg: Lead Vocals, Vicky Freund: Keyboards, Synth, Robbie Stern: Guitars, Will Vignoles: Drums