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"Night Eyes"

Eyes – Night Eyes
08 June 2009, 15:00 Written by Angus Finlayson
night_eyes-eyes_480When writing the script for the film Un Chien Andalou in 1928, arch-surrealists Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí agreed on the working method that 'no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind will be accepted.' It may not be a seminal work of 20th century art but, at times, it can feel like Night Eyes was approached from a similar angle.Not that Eyes appear to have any kind of artistic agenda on this, their debut album. Over the course of 16 tracks, the Detroit trio manage to maintain a 'deranged-children-let-loose-in-studio' aura with remarkable consistency; be that in the quasi-tribal clatterings of 'Stonehenge - Intro' or the disturbed, banjo-led playground chant of 'Mister Ssipi'. There may be proper songs in there, too - 'There You Go''s disco shuffle is about as close as this album comes to single material - but they never more than flirt with anything that could be considered musically normal.And even when we could almost imagine we're listening to some kind of tricksy neo-soul, as in 'Lock It', or an obscure offshoot of electro, as in 'Strange Crowd', there's the vocals. Vocals that, at times, sound like the caterwauling of a hopelessly inept Prince impersonator; and at others like the proclamations of the resident alcoholic in my local Wetherspoons (well, one of the alcoholics. There's lots.) Vocals that stumble and moan their way through faux-hip monologues, and shriek in a warbly falsetto as if constantly on the verge of a catastrophic tantrum.The most disturbing thing about this whole affair is that the entire last paragraph was actually a compliment. Now, perhaps, we have penetrated to the core of what Night Eyes is about. No matter how heroically Eyes attempt to sabotage their own music - through honky, detuned sax, barely-controlled guitar lines or any number of other left-field tactics - it just comes out sounding better. Their cover of Xiu Xiu's 'Worry Boy', perhaps the most sensible track on the album, is probably the weakest; it veers too close to earnest delivery without enough madcap antics or bloopy electronics. I'm all for precise execution and clarity of intent but, in the case of Eyes, thrashing about, hitting things and yelping moronically would appear to be what they do best.Of course, there's a vein (pun intended) of drug-use running throughout; particularly evident halfway through the album, where the woozy paranoia of 'Feel Them' leads into 'Clown Lady''s skewed naivete. But, like all the best psychedelia (and I'm talking Zappa or Beefheart here), this music is not a direct result of substances or their abuse; instead, the album seems to reflect a creative mind fragmented by the highs and lows of intoxication. Eyes take us on a sticky, meandering journey across vast swathes of the musical map; but they do take us with them. Just about.It's just a shame that Night Eyes is a little overlong; by Cut in Half, sluggish, reversed vocals and rumbly machine beats are feeling stale. But this is a band who save their best till last; 'I Can See The World Spi'n sounds like the first 2 bars of a James Brown track looped under distorted shouting, with a horrific musical abortion in the middle. Freakin' gawjus. 80%Eyes on MySpace
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