Archive: Lights (Album Review)



6.9/ 10

(Warner Music France; 2006/2008)

Archive’s album Lights is clearly the product of a great deal of thoughtful, calculated studio work and admirable experimentalism. It’s production is a wonderful collage of noise, bliss and weirdness that makes for a fantastic sonic experience. Unfortunately, the band doesn’t match their work ethic with as inspired songwriting, resulting in an album which, though accomplished and interesting, sometimes gives out when it comes to songs that resonate with any kind of humanity or emotion.

Basically, Archive is a lot like Spiritualized but lacking J. Spaceman’s heavenly conviction. Many of their melodies feel uninspired (“I Will Fade”) or borrowed (the Verve/Stones/Spiritualized rip “Veins”…which is probably the album’s best song…not such a bad thing actually…). The singing is tight but it feels unnatural at times, as if there’s a singing coach there giving tips. What the album lacks is “chutzpa”.

I was listening to the first Dinosaur Jr. album today and no, it’s not the greatest album. It’s messy, some of the writing’s not great and the performances are not quite up to snuff, but still, they had chutzpa! They had that essential spark that makes Dinosaur Jr. the great band that they are. Archive’s Lights is sort of the opposite: the writing is sharp, the production solid, the album is well organized and the performances are great but there’s just no chutzpa.

Even with the lack of chutzpa though, the album is very listenable and admirable for what it accomplishes.  The Radiohead-esque songs near the end, such as the moving “Headlights” and “Taste Of Blood”, are affecting compositions comparable in their power with the songs off OK Computer and The Bends. The aforementioned “Veins” has a chorus with backup singers and gospel organ that is actually pretty uplifting. The rest is all just very solid, well-written psyche for the millennium generation.

I have no problem seeing plenty of well-fed Europeans loving this album and band but I don’t see it happening with hipsters here in North America. J. Spaceman’s got a broken heart and he wants SO badly to find g-d and all and Thom Yorke is freaked out by everything because he’s just too smart and cool to be alive but I can’t feel that in Archive. There’s pain in the songs but it doesn’t come through strong enough.

Relating this back to my grand theory of music as the ultimate form of communication between individuals, this album fails to make that connection as no individual voice ever emerges. At the end of the day, Lights’ brightness is limited by it’s lack of idiosyncrasy.

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