Do any of you remember the film Yes Man? The one where Jim Carrey starts to only say yes to wacky life choices to escape the mundanity of adult life and hilarity ensues? Well, the love interest, played by Zooey Deschanel, is first seen fronting a weird lo-fi pop band called Munchausen By Proxy and are introduced by managing to clear an entire bar with their unbearable brand of pretense and all-too-personal spoken poetry – save for their loyal band of friends dancing at the front. Now, I thought this was a incredibly funny, but albeit farfetched, depiction of strange, hipster-pop music and since first watching the film in 2008, I hadn’t come across anything of the sort. In my years since then I have discovered that anything is possible in music and that’s where Lo-Fi Oxford ‘chic-pop’ outfit, Candy Says come in, and have presented themselves as the living embodiment of a parody.
There is a definite fine line between balls out pretentiousness and outlandish genius, and the genres that encompass lo-fi, electronic and modern folk music are more often than not the ones sitting on the fence. Candy Says’ literal garage-band approach is extremely admirable; the shoe-string, DIY aspect of modern music is something that is growing undoubtedly stronger everyday and can really produce some really interesting and thought-provoking music. They have all the ingredients available to them; a clear musical know-how, creative ambition and drive and the materials they need, and although some of the beats and rhythms they come up with are fantastically catchy – there’s nothing really that interesting about ‘Not Kings’ at all.
They stray into the well defined realms of ambient electro, pop-folk and even some tenuous elements of glitch-hop laying around here and there, which could produce an album that is gloriously eclectic and strangely appealing. But alas, they’re kept to their most basic elements, despite some undoubtedly stellar instrumentation, to make way for the unfortunate centerpiece of the group, the vocals. Now, in no way is this suggesting that the vocals provided are in anyway objectively bad. In fact singers such as this one who let their accent shine through and have a brilliant voice at the same time are something to be celebrated. But the way in which the vocal patterns are used in strange avant garde whispers, small bursts of off-beat spoken word poetry and unnerving use of the French language, is incredibly off putting when presented on a well presented instrumental canvas.
The first thing that came into my mind when I finished the 3rd listen of this album, is that it is an equivalent to a final year experimental student film project; loaded to the brim with pretense and overwhelming attempts to be classed as ‘high art’. The most unfortunate thing being, is that it would be possible to forgive Not Kings’ forced avant-gardeness if the dynamics shifted at all, with little to be said about any changes of pace or tone to bring some intrigue to the lyrical themes or instrumentation. Overall I feel as though this album is a missed opportunity to create something potentially new and interesting,and it just gets caught up in it’s own attempts to be overtly different and ends up creating something quite static and unappealing despite the interesting concept and genre mashing. I think this may well be a record for the fans, which is difficult for a band that’s just trying to gain prominence and spread it’s wings, but I can’t honestly see any wider appeal – or maybe I just simply don’t get it.
Not Kings is out 26th May.