, November 16th, 2011 11:45
A couple of years ago, I interviewed the three chaps from synth band Delphic. While chatting about their sound, I suggested that, in places, their album Acolyte reminded me of fellow Mancunians New Order. The temperature suddenly dropped a degree and two of the band members politely – but firmly – admonished me. Not only did the Delphic boys wholeheartedly disagree with the comparison, they were annoyed at being pigeon-holed with Manchester's past. I enjoyed their feistiness – which would have held more weight if they didn't sound like a poor man's New Order.
Admittedly, it must be utterly jarring to have a lovingly-crafted record reduced to a roll call of musical touchpoints via the medium of lazy journalism, but there is also something quite powerful when new artists spotlight their influences like shiny badges of honour. Toronto's Odonis Odonis are a case in point. From the first few seconds of the opening title track of their debut album Hollandaze, a raging familiarity menaces the listener; the dead-eyed drum machine beat, the shards of brutal guitar and singer Dan Tzenos' snarling howl (or should that be a howling snarl?) all point to a raging update of Big Black. Let's hope that Tzenos isn't as precious about comparisons.
And if Tzenos doesn't possess Albini's goofball nastiness, Odonis Odonis make up with a boundless energy. The trio (drummer Jarod Gibson and bassist Denholm Whale complete the line-up) have unleashed a record that anchors itself in surf-punk, guttural shoegaze and a magical ear for a tune.
Hailing from the fertile Toronto punk scene, Odonis Odonis – apparently named after a band acquaintance called, heroically, Adonis Adonis – is the brainchild of Tzenos. After bashing through a stockpile of over 40 songs, he self-recorded Hollandaze before enrolling Gibson and Whale to beef-up the live Odonis sound. A second album, recorded with Colin Stewart in Vancouver, is due out next April.
But Hollandaze is more than enough for now. The songs hit hard and fast: the barbed title track is backed up by a trio of three-minute electric shocks. 'Busted Lip' is a blast of acrid metallic guitars, Tzenos wailing the repeated refrain of "I've got a busted lip" which flails nobly, deep in the mix. 'White Flag Riot' is even better, tipping a hat to another Flag, that of Rollins' Black variety and replete with Tzenos' snapping guitar arpeggios and confrontational chorus. Displaying a relentless edge to the tracking, Hollandaze then dives into 'Blood Feast' which is a fabulous squall of grotty shoegaze and a hook wrapped up in feedback - imagine a delinquent, sex-starved My Bloody Valentine.
It is all pretty breathless – the urgency of youth mixed with a desire to make a first impression. 'Seedgazer', at least, takes its time over six pulsing minutes, before giving way to a hush of reverb and a far off female vocal. But, the furious 'New World' - two minutes of feedback white noise and a Tad-like rock riff – notches the tension back up to eleven, before a glimpse of what Odonis Odonis could become races along on 'Handle Bars'. A chunky riff and menacing melody does its best to hide a mighty pop tune, and if the banshee scream is too close to a certain Charles Thompson IV, it'd be a moot point. Hollandaze is not an album to quibble about obvious influences – they permeate the soul on this record.
But the fury doesn't last and it is when Tzenos runs out of energy that a life beyond feedback starts to take shape. 'We Are The Left Overs' is the most overtly political lyric, with a disempowered Generation Z (what letter are we up to these days?) howl for opportunities lost. Musically, the final two tracks allow Tzenos' to explore his technique - 'Ledged Up' almost jangles before descending into another Tad-like steamroller, while the closing 'Tick Tock' - the album's other pop song - starts off like Document-era R.E.M. with its sweet 'la la la' harmonies.
Bands like Yuck and Ringo Deathstarr are forging mini-careers by basing a sound around their favourite guitars bands. And, yep, Hollandaze could be accused of simply being the work another bedroom geek faithfully documenting his shit-hot record collection. But Odonis Odonis are a notch above for at least two good reasons – firstly, their energy is utterly thrilling and secondly, Hollandaze hints at so much more and should ensure that Tzenos is not reduced to journalistic footnote of merely being a cuddly version of Big Black.