Both Ways Open Jaws
, November 23rd, 2011 09:19
This is 2011, get it?! And "culture" – inc. global, pop, and big-C varieties – is nothing but a free all-you-can-eat buffet for consumption and regurgitation of ideas. Everything is in your reach and you have to try it because it is there. Don't you? You have to exercise your freedoms. You have to scour eBay for a plastic imitation of a Native American war bonnet because what else are you supposed to mooch around in at Glastonbury while mouth-breathing in the direction of the Vaccines, you imbecile? And as an artist, too, isn't it your inborn right to cobble together a plumage from the pilfered feathers of your idols and contemporaries? That's intertextuality, only.
That made up the utter snotfest that was my initial reaction to hearing The Dø for the first time, and is unfair. Not least because any first impression of The Dø will be unreliable: no one song can fully approximate their style. Debut album A Mouthful (2008, big in France!) was a brattish polymath of a thing; but, as often happens, this follow-up is even broader in its greedy scope, and more invested. The Franco-Finnish coupling commit to eclecticism like their lives depended on it, like cabaret Scheherazades. On Both Ways Open Jaws they play a range of characters, including Björk, the Fiery Furnaces, Joanna Newsom, Camille, and Feist. Statistically speaking, you'll like something.
You're bound to hate something with a vengeance, too, and my opinion of this band was marred by my hearing what I hated first: the single, 'Slippery Slope'. It opens with a brittle timpani and flat, haughty, fuck-you vocals ripped so directly from M.I.A. you might also feel too outraged to wait it out.
Advice: do wait it out. And wait it out through the unnervingly Björkish brass-fittings and exuberance in Olivia Merilahti's voice. Like Oh Land, she uses Björk as a cipher through which to decode the messages inside her. You wouldn't want the Homogenic inflection of 'Mood Mermaids' to stand between you and the infinite depth and splendour of that orchestral boom which immediately follows. You wouldn't want 'The Calendar''s mewling whimsy to keep you from its incredible strangeness, its drum breakdowns and those blink-and-you'll-miss-'em jaunty little motherfuckers in the wind section.
This imaginative instrumentation of Dan Levy's is everywhere: a vibraphone lurching along in 'Gonna Be Sick!' till Merilahti yelps, 'I'm gonna throw / gonna throw / gonna throw / gonna throw up!' Strings swell and self-delete over organs in 'The Wicked and the Blind', and it's golden and chill and somehow 90s-nostalgic. Even 'Bohemian Dances' manages to overcome its blah lyrics, including what sounds enough like "I'll no longer fart" to make you cock yer head; eventually those big, satisfying clicks on beats one and three and the most guttural note on the piano go down like a warm meal.
It takes a few listens for all the oh-but-that-sounds-like moments on Both Ways to dissolve. But then, underneath all the little bites/homages, underneath the idiosyncratic silt, there it is – as it really is. A record that ranges widely without ever feeling tacked-together. A real feat of production, and that's an admission from someone who usually sneers at audiophilia: man, you can hear everything!
And, most of all, it's a nice ornate box for a jewel called 'Mood Mermaids'. Really – its loveliness increases. It's so like a Björk song that the real author barely matters. The author brings a cardialectomy of a song into being, and so the author erases herself. Oh no. I think… I think I believe in intertextuality.