Okkervil River: I Am Very Far [2011]

Posted: May 24, 2011 in Okkervil River, Reviews
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okkervil river

So it’s been a while. Hi there. I’ve been pretty busy, but not busy enough to justify such a long absence – I’m supposed to be doing one of these bastards a day! It’s been several. I’m aware of this.

So I’ve never heard of Okkervil River. Neither do I know what kind of music they play, really. I just selected them from Spotify’s homepage, making me a) lazy as fuck and b) exactly the kind of listener this band wants. Having paid for the privilege of being in the ‘featured’ section of Spotify, this band clearly want lazy, inattentive people like me to listen to their music. This sounds, on the first listen, rather generic, but in an overblown way. They were clearly going for the adrenaline-jab injection of pomp and circumstance that, in recent years, have propelled bands such as Muse, My Chemical Romance and Greenday from obscurity or from the fading light of their careers (in the case of Greenday) into what industry insiders refer to as ‘the big time’.

Big miss. This band seems neither established nor distinctive enough to try this little wheeze. The bands referred to before (who were, it must be stressed, just off the top of my head) broke into, or back into, the ‘big time’ with albums that defined them by over-exaggeration. Muse: Absolution. They then began a process of ensuring each album became more and more exaggerated until they now resemble little more than a mockery of themselves. My Chemical Romance : The Black Parade. The band were so terrified of the implications of such bombasticity that they attempted to tour as The Black Parade, seriously considered breaking up for good, and are currently dragging their heels over releasing a new album, obviously (and rightly) worried that people will be listening out for the same bombast that catapulted them from half-in-half-out fame to international renown and status. Greenday’s: American Idiot is a slightly different example, for this was a band seeking to redefine their sound into something befitting the huge stadiums they were playing, but not filling. The follow-up was a similarly theatrical affair that many regard as being lacklustre. This was untrue, as the album was no less grandiose, just less of a jump from before. And I suppose this is my point. If you’re going to go so over-the-top in the hope of breaking in, or back into, the big time, you better be damn sure it’s the right decision.

Problem is, this band’s shit compared to the examples above. There’s no defining sound, and the bombast (which seems to be my word of the day) is useless due to the paucity of genuinely stirring music. This sounds, if I’m pushed, a little like a Diet version of the Killers. Imagine that.

‘The Valley’ starts off the album, and is probably the best song on there. The valley referred to is of broken rock dreams. This would be a poignant image were it not peddled by a band that is so blind to the irony of what they are singing. Good music and a pretty racy start move this song away from this problem though. There’s nothing really of note until ‘We Need a Myth’ – more power, more like the Killers, more of a shame. This band clearly has a lot of misdirected talent. Shame. A good finale redeems the song.

Next of note is, I suppose, ‘Your Past Life As a Blast’. This is not the best song on the album, but it’s probably the one I’d listen to again. It’s very atmospheric, and the vocals are genuinely, interestingly, good-sounding and well-written, much like the one after it, ‘Wake And Be Fine’. The last song is ‘The Rise’ and it’s quite an intriguing listen. Brandon Flowers still seems to be balls deep in this man’s anus, but there’s hints of the band as they were in here which stand cheek-by-jowl with dreadful, unforgivable, howlers. Clearly intended to be a bittersweet, dreamy last song, it comes out as a self-indulgent mess.

So. Not a fan, really. Although I may give Spoitify’s ‘featured’ section a try again though. It’s fun getting this annoyed.

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