Perhaps the shock has warn off. Chairs Missing is so different from Pink Flag – not to mention it helped invent a genre – that one sort of expected a similar leap between Chairs Missing and this record. I’m not trying to say they’re that similar, but they’re certainly more similar than I had been led to believe by reviews.
This is like a noisier, more diverse Chairs Missing in some ways. And perhaps that’s why I’ve been struggling with it a little bit, as the embrace of some elements of noise, which was considered such a big step at the time, sort of makes it seem to be like a step back towards their origins. Maybe that’s completely unfair. (After all, their origins are as a punk band with really short songs, not a noise rock band…)
As others have noted, it’s very clear there is a bit of a split happening in the band’s songwriting. There are tracks that suggest following in the tradition of the poppier sounds on Chairs Missing and then there are tracks that feel considerably weirder, sounding closer to the noisier side of post punk.
But the palette is pretty similar to Chairs Missing, except for the greater use of feedback and effects. And maybe it’s the palette that gave me such a strong sense of deja vu. And I don’t think that’s fair, because most bands sound roughly the same from album to album. But this one is the last of the first four records that I’ve heard. So you can perhaps understand why I was expecting it to be as shockingly different as the other three.
It’s taken some time, but I’m coming around. Because, the thing is, though my expectations were mpossibly high and clearly unrealistic, the fact is that they still sound like nobody else. (Except, perhaps, for those they have influenced. Though on one track one of them sounds like Bryan Ferry…) And with enough listens it’s clear that it is a major departure from Chairs Missing in enough ways that much of my initial reaction seems pretty silly (and unfair).