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Clean Bandit
New Eyes Laurie Tuffrey , June 10th, 2014 18:51

"So you think electro music is boring, it's stupid, it's repetitive? Well, it is repetitive." These are the opening lines on Clean Bandit's debut album New Eyes. The track, 'Mozart's House', has been around for a while, but sticking it up at the front of the record places it as an opening gambit. They're throwing down the gauntlet to themselves, with the giddy enthusiasm of the maverick with the synth at end-of-year revue at the music academy, enlisting his virtuoso violinist mates to really blow the cobwebs out of the fuddy-duddies. "So you think electro music is boring...?" Uh-oh, here comes trouble.

There's something gratingly precocious and self-conscious about Clean Bandit's mesh of electronics and strings. 'Mozart's House' tootles along for a while and then slips in a bit of Mozart's String Quartet No. 21, the innocuous house rhythm plodding away underneath, with the effect being either that of a surprise favourite Britain's Got Talent audience clap-a-long or the kind of music you'd find on the double-disc compilations you get in tourist information centres, called something like Classical Beatz and nestling next to a collection of whale song recordings.

It doesn't stop there; midway through they go full Jonty, and reel out the quartet figure all the way, with a kind of cheeky, 'how'd-ya-like-that?' smirk. It's like the episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes on tour with Hullabalooza and Cypress Hill recruit the London Symphony Orchestra while high. They end up collaborating on a symphonic version of 'Insane In The Brain', and that's a pretty funny joke; trouble is, Clean Bandit feel like they're doing this in all earnestness, and it's enough to start shedding enamel off the molars.

After 'Mozart's House', the album descends into a melange of fairly indistinguishable tedium. It's naff. In fact, it's very naff. It's a panoply of naffness. Naff house, naff two-step, naff electro... naff-step. 'Extraordinary' is only such in how accurately it mimics the sonic qualities of a flannel. Currently riding high in the charts, 'Rather Be' is tepid house best served with an overpriced VK and a faint sense that there must be more to life than this. When they venture from their stock formula, as on the ill-advised reggae rhythms of 'Come Over', the result is prime gap yah anthem, something to slug lao-lao to before tubing down the Nam Song. It's not all bad, and sometimes the reverse is true, with the strings the best thing about the track; the opening figure from 'A+E' is very pretty and the violin rising up in 'Cologne' is melodious and elegant, but they both give way to more of the electro-flotsam.

The sum effect is bafflement. Who does this appeal to? It seems like Radio 1 have waged a war of attrition to turn Clean Bandit's "brand" into that of chart goliaths, but it's a shame to hear that "the biggest single of the year so far" is nothing more than nostalgia for 90s garage with violins. Sadly, Clean Bandit have made an album of electro music that is boring, falling at their own first hurdle.

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