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The Naked And Famous – In Rolling Waves

The Naked And Famous – 'In Rolling Waves' album review

After an early peak, the Kiwi group's second record sinks into blandness

By Daisy Jones
When The Naked And Famous released their debut album ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You’ in 2010, there was a general feeling that (some three years after MGMT’s ‘Oracular Spectacular’) they were decidedly late for the ’80s revival party. In fact, they’d just about made it but all five had come in decent but uninspiring Human League costumes. The Kiwi band squeezed out the obligatory quirky and life-affirming soundtrack to a TV ad (for Canon) with their enormously catchy single ‘Young Blood’, and toured the world before settling in Los Angeles to record their second album. It was an unexpectedly brilliant start for the Auckland-based quintet, who had all of the hooks but none of the wit of their many predecessors.

That second album, ‘In Rolling Waves’, has now landed. Each track was recorded without backing tracks with the idea that it could be played the same way live, and this intention is embodied in opening track ‘A Stillness’: a brilliantly hypnotic and stylish song made for the stage or (failing that) massive speakers. Gradually building into a steady rhythm reminiscent of The Stone Roses’ ‘Waterfall’, and with entrancing vocals that emulate Björk’s on ‘Big Time Sensuality’, The Naked And Famous (skipping forward from the ’80s for one track) seem to slip into such a ’90s daze here that you can almost see Bez gurning in the corner of your eye when it plays. The thudding beat and sporadic sweeping electronica make for a wildly euphoric track, which holds huge promise that this album will be considerably better than the first. It’s a promise that is gradually and awkwardly broken throughout ‘In Rolling Waves’.

After that premature peak, the album sinks song-by-song into abysmally po-faced synth-pop: think Hurts on a comedown. Recent single ‘Hearts Like Ours’ is pleasant enough as straight-laced electronica for the masses, but without wit or any ounce of rebellion it reeks of a car advert. With the exception of ‘The Mess’ – arguably the most unlistenable song on the album, a duet that could drown in its own earnestness – the rest of ‘In Rolling Waves’ continues in a similarly bland vein. The title track blasts on with a cringe-inducing, over-epic chorus, and ‘What We Want’ drones on like a boy-band album-filler ballad unconvincingly disguised as something ‘alternative’. ‘I don’t know what I want,’ sing Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith together. We do: not this. Buy this album here

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