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New York Cool - Music



Reviewed by John Proctor



The poet T.S. Eliot said a funny thing about tradition when invoked in criticizing individual work: “Seldom, perhaps, does the word appear except in a phrase of censure.” This is especially true in the dynamic of indie rock – while a few influences might be cited, every kid I know in Brooklyn who has a band wants to make sure everyone knows how different they are from everyone else. Which is doubly ironic in light of how balkanized the indie world has become, a veritable battle royal between the nu-wavers and the no-wavers, the freak-folks and the anti-folks, the post-rockers and the classicists, the noise-rockers and the shoegazers, and every sub-subgenre that can fit between the ropes.

Enter Fanfarlo, a London indie band whose new album Reservoir might touch on at least half of the styles of Indie Battle Royal 2009. First off, they have a name that to my knowledge has no real meaning, but has no competition on Google. There’s the vaguely Jeff Buckley emotive voice (with a few less octaves) that Andrew Bird, Patrick Watson and countless NYU students in art-rock bands have appropriated. “Ghosts” and “Luna” juxtapose jangly Johnny Marr-inspired guitars and a chugging new wave beat with a very new-century-indie affinity for horns and vibes (see Sufjan Stevens and Broken Social Scene). These and the best of the rest of the album also have a nice dramatic sense of build and resolution that Nick Cave and the Birthday Party in the 80s, Stereolab in the 90s and Destroyer in this decade have perfected. And if these decade reference points aren’t enough, there is a vague underlying 70s Rundgrenesque production similar in mood to Midlake’s 2007 masterpiece The Trials of Van Occupanther.

But what makes the album work is not the traceability of its origins, but how playfully and seamlessly it works its influences into the body of the album. And it’s not a putdown to say it sounds familiar in the current indie landscape. Eliot also said – and I paraphrase – that any artistic talent lies not expressing one’s unique personality but in integrating it into the tradition it springs from. That Fanlarlo has produced in Reservoir an album that does this so seamlessly is no small feat, especially within a tradition that so consistently refuses to acknowledge itself.

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