Classixx - Hanging Gardens - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Classixx - Hanging Gardens

by Amy Putman Rating:3.5 Release Date:2013-06-03

Classixx had a promising opening, I'll give them that. The problem is that went nowhere. It rapidly disintegrated into sounds simultaneously stale and jarring in mangled-together styles. This is music which the creators obviously thought was clever; you can hear the conceit in every beat. It isn't clever, and it isn't big. Instead, it is insipid and inconsistent, generating the kind of ambience a boring schoolchild messing about on an old school Casio keyboard would create.

In parts, in fact, it's like a keyboard demo; that particular kind of arrhythmic yet repetitive, sharp unpleasantness that sounds like it's off key even when it isn't. They have not even reclaimed it. They could have toyed with such a retro sound in a glory of embracing seemingly irritating patterns, remaking and reusing them with love and care. Others have managed that well. Instead, this is the laziest kind of music, grasping at retro icons without love or understanding, mashing them into something else quickly in the hope it will make originality.

The vocals improve things a little. For a blissful while they lift the music into a great sound... but then all too soon it deteriorates from the blissful beast of the 80s into bad 90s dance. Classixx's work suffers from a complete lack of motion, wave, build, spread or rhythm. At times, I felt queasy but even when my stomach was undisturbed this album made me edgy and sad. I have never felt less like I wanted to dance.

There are moments of respite, however, and even some sound art of genuine beauty. 'All You're Waiting For' is awesome, calling to mind The Go-Go's, but with a modern twist which works well and is nicely crafted. 'I'll Get You' also works, in a deeply 80s, Salt-N-Pepa, early 'come at me' rap/pop crossover kind of a way.

Their particular use of Hispanic music is vaguely innovative and produces something close to hip-grooving, but like many of their tracks it goes on too long and grinds to nothingness, trying too hard to be clever and complex, whereas it is their simplest moments that shine with true talent. The chorus of "Do you like bass?" is groovy and wriggly in a way which firmly winks at the 90s and I enjoyed that... but is this really the kind of thing we should be yearning for? Is constant retroaction really the best thing for now, or are we just retreating from the 'now' with a toxic bland of fear, loss and nostalgia? The problem is that the pleasure lies precisely in its mimicry; it offers nothing new, contributes nothing to the music world or to society. It's pretty but superficial; pleasant moments which quickly fade.

The problem is this album's incredible inconsistency. At times it is too jumbled and overdone, at times so pared-down it is dull. I totally understand what they are aiming for, I see clearly what they are trying to achieve, but they fall short.

So many people are trying for originality with this method - a kind of supermarket sweep of cool retro interspliced with the new - that it has become a cliché. It is ultimate hipster music which leaves people with eardrums in place of solid cotton-wool pretension with a bland, unpalatable mash, tasteless and cold as composting leftovers. Like so many hipster products, it is trying hard to be something it's not. The lack of authenticity is at its core like a cankerous rancour; this is the aural equivalent of those expensive, faux charity shop jumpers.

The "uh" on 'Santa Clara' feels good but when compared to other remixes of guttural sounds which have become societal staples, it is just a pale imitation. Classixx reference so many greats, from The Waitresses to Pet Shop Boys, but dull down the spirit of the original flavour like bad chefs. I can't decide whether they don't understand why the originals were great, or simply can't deploy them with sufficient aplomb.

Their use of nature sounds could have been a giggling flurry of deliberate misuse of 90s pop aesthetic, which would have been ace, but it's just soft and weak. This album is like the 80s drained of blood and colour, out of the reach of the smelling salts, in the hands of a careless necromancer; a decrepit, inept zombie version of an energetic decade. The final track is actively painful. When done well, this genre, and even this method, can be uplifting, combining the best of all eras and genres, like the greatest fuck of your euphoric life. In Classixx's hands, it becomes floppy, flaccid, asexual.

Classixx are trying to be instant classics with none of graft, work or experimentation required, none of the work and creative pressure of genuine classics. They are relying on mixing other's innovations and styles and hoping their cocky brow-lift and knowing nod will allow them to pull it off, like a blagger in a bank. Instead, like so much this desperate generation produces, it just suxx.

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