Marble Valley - Breakthrough

by Al Brown Rating:5 Release Date:2011-10-17

Reviewing music can be fun, but only if the music is good and you can sit back and enjoy it, or if it's terrible and you can completely go to town on it. A lot of the stuff I get at the moment just makes me shrug: I can't even lay into it - it's just there; coming out of my computer, getting in the way of stuff I actually want to listen to. Breakthrough is an album of irony-tinged stoner-rock by Marble Valley, who are fronted by ex-Pavement drummer Steve West, so naturally I couldn't be more excited.

There's a school of thought at the moment that Beck was not, as we've been told for a decade, a sonic pioneer and creator of classic album(s) but a disingenuous twerp - and, Scientology aside - shorthand for everything that was wrong with music as the millennium ended. I bring this up because much of what makes up this album is the kind of bored, restless frippery that was Beck's calling card. Wacky lyrics vie for space with inessential electronica and ironically lazy Led Zep riffs. Did I mention that I think Beck is a cunt?

Second track 'Wildlife Free-Zone' borrows the exact lyrical rhythms from 'Stereo' by Pavement - specifically the much-quoted "What about the voice of Geddy Lee" section. This is the kind of thing Pavement fans will notice, and it will make them long for awesome lyrics about Geddy Lee rather than whatever mid-life crisis spiritual bullshit this is: "Fairies live underneath the ferns/ And deep within the pine trees"- um yeah, whatever, mate.

'Never' is pretty good: all slow Low-isms and melancholic acoustic chugging. 'Tokyo Hands' is bollocks - West sings: "Karaoke/ trigger finger/ okey-dokey/ I'm a singer tonight" and a little part of me dies because someone will doubtless describe this shallow, go-nowhere dross as a "love letter" to Japan's capital. But then I hated Lost in Translation too.

In fairness, apart from 'Tokyo Hands' it's never completely obnoxious, perhaps because - in a welcome break from the stoner dilettante tradition - none of their songs breach the four-minute mark. Also, West's sedate baritone is pleasant, particularly on 'Good Life', a competent Magnetic Fields parody; and the drowsy, Interpol-esque 'My Siberian Bride'. So, y'know: crack open the bong and check it out - it's probably among the top five drummer-solo-records ever made. Faint enough praise for ya?

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