Following the release of new material from My Bloody Valentine earlier this year, another noisy Creation shoegaze act have got in on the reformation act. Thankfully, it’s not Adorable.
mbv succeeded by applying subtle tweaks to their unmistakable sound. They used trip hop on ‘New You’, jungle on ‘Wonder 2′ and the luscious late 60s atmospherics of The Beach Boys on ‘Is This and Yes’. Even the grinding monotony of ‘Nothing Is’ has its roots in mid 90s Detroit techno.
MBV’s LA counterparts, Medicine have followed suit, releasing their first material in eighteen years by the original line-up. Unfortunately, To The Happy Few is stuck in the mid ‘90s along with their previous material, the only noticeable difference being better production values and a spikier edge reminiscent of recent material by The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, whom took their cue from Medicine anyway.
‘Long as the Sun’ opens the album with promise, the fuzzed up guitars and slurred vocal harmonies give way to chiming synths and a rolling sampled drumbeat, so far, so ‘Soon’. Yet the album quickly falters; ‘Burn It’ could be a cut from The Boo Radleys’ much unloved noise pop album C’mon Kids, whilst ‘Holy Crimes’ and ‘The End of The Line’ have all the correct components – hazy, vaguely psychedelic, washed with layers of guitar noise – but the actual song structure isn’t there. This is a fault of many of the other tracks; they sound like they were originally twenty minute sonic mindfucks that could have blown brains, and instead they’ve been cut up without care and squeezed into a four minute straight jacket.
‘Butterfly’s Out Tonight’ is a prime example; Medicine insert various segments within the song – the loud bit, cut into an ambient bit, cut into an ‘oooh ooh’ vocal bit, back into a loud bit – but it doesn’t flow, there’s no cohesion, you can probably hear the edits if you listen closely enough. Brian Wilson, even in the state he was in back in ’67 when he invented this approach with Smile knew that this kind of self indulgence could only work with a bloody great chorus in the middle; bloody great choruses are not evident throughout the album.
Of course, the act of reformation resulting in releasing new material is highly commendable. Most reformed bands are creatively barren, hawking around twenty five year old songs, so for Medicine to break this cliché is a great, great thing – it’s just a shame that some of the interesting sounds they create here couldn’t have incubated for a bit longer. To The Happy Few fails mainly by not realizing that psych weirdness needs pop knowhow for it to function. Newer acts such as Ariel Pink or Hookworms realize that to get away with making indie freakbeat, you need to be able to differentiate Gaga from directionless blah-blah. Unfortunately, on this showing, Medicine flirt way too much with the latter.
- Chris Todd