Friday, October 2, 2009

new New

From Manson overlays to Danny K, kids are gonna eat New Holland's new album for breakfast every day this season.

photo by the equally talented but often unseen Mark Reitz for
(more rock stars and some other sexy local scenes the way you've probably never seen them at

It started with a very pop single that prompted a little wordplay on my part and a lot radio play on theirs. “For a high speed chase across Exploded Views” I mused, “start with a little Coldplay and bring in The Killers and you've got Freedom, son.”

After that I had this to say

And then the lovely Liny snatched the nicer of my lines for the press release. I wonder, was that becoss iss true or because nobody else had written anything about them lately? Are the journalists really paying attention to local music? This band is going to be big. But where’s the buzz about them? In short, in the piece, I wondered about (wandered about) the role of decent commercial music in the collective psyche and chatted about why I think The Kings Of Neon are set for success. (It’s in the song structure)


then Albert Dupe Lassie from Rhythm leaned over to me last night at the raunchy launch (seems to be happening a lot lately, makes me feel like somebody’s listening) and offered an insight while Katrina or Anna or Natalia spread her legs wide so I could get one last shot. This album he said (I’m paraphrasing) has a bit of everything in it. The whole top forty. Whatever you like.

Which is exactly what we were saying at breakfast (not the royal we, the wild we), a Jackal, a Jill and a Jezebel. Something for everyone. IF you like hit radio. I don’t (and neither do my breakfast companions), but I like this album(and so do they. Or, let’s say it’s two against one, and the band still wins). Of course, I’m no puritan - I was brought up on radio, and still have a somewhat soft spot for its (better) material.

New Holland is only one of two bands this year not to disappoint when it comes to a second album. They’re right, really. You only get one chance. (and Foto, if you disappoint, I’m gonna kick your arty asses and howl like a lost puppy). New Holland don’t blow theirs, they start by grabbing your gullet with the first track. It could have been the title track (if they’d totally sold out to sales), but that would be a tad TOO self referential, and subtlety has always been companion to their confrontational sentiments.

So. a breakdown of Exploded Views.

Freedom! is the first track, and the next hit single. It’s infectious, hopeful, and scattered with minor chords that make it mature despite bopping drums and chopping strings. Can’t get it out of my head, and I’m quite happy for it to stay there. Our anthems are better off inspirational. We’ve had enough darkness this last winter.

I’m not a huge fan of The Son, though I see what they’re doing (or where they’re going – right into indie rockers pockets). The lyrics are lovely and give it all its meaning, but it’s messy. Nail in the foot kind of messy, I guess. But very necessary all the same – it seems from the songs coming out of the rock scene that our parents don’t know we’re over propaganda from the pulpit… I guess (sigh) we’ll just have to tell them over and over again. (doesn’t that sound familiar)

In Silence is Coldplay before fame made him lame. It’s a dirge of disenfranchised youth with a three-note intro that carries through, contains it, and keeps it from becoming too weighted and dark. Like the lyrics say, a great song for sad drives through the abandoned annals of your heart. The kind that goes on repeat while you sob into your scarf. (but wait! It’s spring!)

As a (sort of) consolation, These Are The Best Days is brighter but still stark. It’s is not what you’d expect from the song title (but that’s probably why they put it here, and Freedom! first). It’s a slow, simple song littered with languorous keys and a bit of electronic punctuation. I don’t like the vox effects and electronic overlays. They seem unsagely synthetic, a bit passé and a lot less integrated than they are on the last song on the album. But it wasn’t written for me, anyway. And before some smartass points out that even my broke-backed Bon Iver uses those vox effects, I will secede and say that the two elements I don’t like actually suit each other. (and on the subject of Bon Iver, when is someone going to break his heart again so we can get another awesome album?) If we are a bit behind the times down in sharpest Africa, this song will be right on time. If not, we’ll smile and call it a learning curve.

This(is)home is the next hit. Also an anthem. I’ve never enjoyed spelling so much. The Killers would be proud, methinks. Nice falsetto, too. One of the key songs on the list.

Hiatus is just that - something of a smoke break. Kind of feels like it was played with one hand. But then, that’s what we like about the simple genius of their melodies, isn’t it? I like the celestial echo at the end.

In Hurricane , the voice of New Holland speaks about something other than itself. It’s a song about fucking and finding oneself (or not), replete with the blunt-tongued lyrics we love New Holland for (even if we don’t say poes around our parents) - from town to town she's just passing through shifting gears with her laced up boots. .. she won't take you very far, but what she'll do, she'll fuck you like a hurricane'. Lost souls and sex always make great platforms for contemplation and SA is a hard place if you’re big hearted and horny and it's right here in the middle of the me-ness mess that New Holland have something to offer everyone.

SA is torrid with a horrid history, tasty yet testy with an abiding mystery in the lives and loves of its livers and lovers. We grow up watching our backs, and often seeing our asses while we try to get our rocks off in one way or another. It’s called Freedom, isn’t it? (when the answers aren’t given to you on a razor edged plate.) What New Holland does is speak directly to the people in charge of tomorrow– the sons and daughters of the sons and daughters of post pot hate depression, gaily skipping on the skirts of a looming recession armed with nothing but thoughts and fingertips. I like that they’re crude at times, and always honest and often poetic (in a new way, A.D.D. haiku would not be far wrong a phrase to lash the lyrics with). They’re doing something that other SA pop rock bands are perhaps too old (or just too tired and uninspired) to do – seducing the budding passions of its teens in the language that they use. Can anyone say Fuck Yeah? Very Lolita, Teejay, preying on the smallest. ( did you remember to kill Humbert?)

A little less lonely is the surprise winner. Hendrix strings, grunting bass, tempered drums. Totally different to the other tracks. Jaw dropping to see live. Hope there’s more of that on the way…

Thank You, Gautama is Simon & Garfunkel bonking Sufjan Stevens on ecstasy. It’s so good it’s bad. Uncluttered, uncomplicated, acoustic. I wouldn’t be surprised if very young mothers play it to their toddlers.

Something To Believe In is bubble gum for free. Happy tum tum. If it didn’t have the signature progressions, I would puke at all the cute keys. The lyrics give me the finger, anyhow, with lines like ‘I’m not doing it for you’. Also, have you noticed that it’s only the good albums that have ONE song that grates? The Guns did with Cutting Heads. Taxi Violence with The Turn, too. (no, I’m not telling which ones)

Collection of relatively true statements is my favourite. It’s not catchy, but it stays with you. it’s not melancholy, but it makes you reflect. It’s also wise, and winding, and the longest song title on the album. And it’s the one that will be with me longest, I suspect.

But the quintessential song on the album is not the unbruised hits, or the bits in between. It’s the one that tells the New Holland story tritely and rightly and it’s aptly titled No Disguise. The song has it all – their unmistakeable melodies, unmasked vocals, simple fingering, inobtrusive rhythm and cutting, courageous lyrics, (“I tear your head from your heart and your leg from your bone. Should you resist for much longer I might just go coz I won’t let you swallow me whole”). It redresses clichés (a fucking halo) and reminds me (at least lyrically) of A Perfect Circle’s Noose.

21 is the middle child. It doesn’t really stand out, except that it’s naked, and this makes you notice the new in New Holland. On a picky note, there’s a line that sounds like it’s been borrowed from aKING (words and notes), but it’s probably just an oversight. Or is subversion not below these boys? They certainly treat those few notes differently. It opens out into a Nintendo version of soft-boiled electro house which gives it some scope and humour. Like Collection Of relatively True Statements, and No disguise it’s compositionally at ease with itself and it finishes the album off sweetly and suitably. Think about that for a momen - how do you finish off an album like this easily? Not that simple. But perhaps that's their winning formula -they’re always seem to be at ease.

Which brings me to a point about the live performance and the (inter)face of the band - the star, the dark prince. He’s comfortable on stage moving between one thing and the next with an unfettered fluidity that made the audience's sober awkwardness at the launch seem silly. He’s guaranteed to take his top off (perhaps that’s why we didn’t see m/any gigs this winter?) which only tops the sex appeal that swims around the room through the music (“you see that girl there, with the red blouse?” I heard a pair of pumps postulating, “she wants him too”. I didn’t look up to see who was who while i weaved through glistening bodies clutching sweating glasses, but there was more than one woman in that room with a red blouse, that’s for sure! And more than one woman without a blouse, too… (and a true sign of the band’s infectious energy is that they got those bored-looking, bare boobed girls to bop on stage instead of bear their beavers as per usual). A front man with a voice and a body is about the best thing for a band with the musical breadth to humour the party animals and convince consummate music appreciators alike. Like what I’ve said? Go buy it and give yourself something to sing about this summer.

Other kudos

Well produced @ coffeeSTAINEDvinyl (nice to see standards picking up in independent studios),first 1000 discs have album art that uses an insert-not-fold format, which means you can stick them on your wall. (Or swap them with your friends!)

The twitter take

Around the world in a party daze, @NewHollandband move easily from 1 sound to another&never let you go. Chameleons with their clothes off,ja.

Bottom line

Mixing timeless melody and contemporary pop icing, Exploded Views blows up expectations to become the sound of summer 2009. Play it loud and drive fast. (sorry, Wad. You asked for it)

I leave you with a trick question. What would we do if Teejay changed his hair? Put your answers below…

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