album reviews: The Electric Soft Parade marches on hot tracks. The Majesticons throw a (weak) beauty party

The Electric Soft Parade
Holes in the Wall
While the line between accessibility and innovation is often fleeting, it is a line that Bristol, England’s Electric Soft Parade handles skillfully and consistently. Band principals, 18 and 20-year-old brothers Tom and Alex White, elaborately weave opaque moods and complex textures throughout their debut album Holes in the Wall. Simultaneously catchy Britpop and quirky experimental sounds, The Electric Soft Parade showcases a high quality medley of UK artistic bravado and indie rock.
Contrasting dynamics and intelligent hooks fill the album, which opens with “Start Again,” a track that models the White brothers’ songwriting and production prowess. Alternating between sections of robust, crunching guitars and of warm, subtle melodies, the song catches the listener’s attention to the inviting melody soaring overtop of the unusual rhythms. UK Top 40 hit “Empty at the End” – a retro/Britpop work – and “There’s a Silence” – a feedback-swimming rocker – immediately reinforce the sonic impression.
“This Given Line” shows the band willing to stretch toward an unusual blues/pop combination, while “Why Do You Try So Hard to Hate Me” and “Biting the Soles of My Feet” display the band’s taste for extended psychedelic sections. And just to confirm their confidence and style, they contribute strong, straightforward guitar-based songs reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, Starflyer 59 or early Radiohead in “Something’s Got to Give” and “Sleep Alone.”
The Electric Soft Parade went to No. 19 on the UK charts with “Silent to the Dark,” which features a memorable, distinctive melody, and a lush sound full of harmonic transformation. As the electronic symphony of “Silent to the Dark” develops into analog avant-garde – only to return dramatically to the final chorus – the listener is again convinced that this band realizes the proper balance of thought and feeling in expression – and will listen a little bit louder next time around.

Beauty Party
The new release from the hip hop collective Majesticons is musically diverse and poignant, yet ultimately unfulfilling in its satirical journey through mundane topics. Ringleader Mike Ladd dreamed up the hip hop war trilogy, which began with the Infesticons’ Gun Hill Road, continued by the Majesticons, and completed by the Trusticons. Majesticons’ Beauty Party is intended to be the money-crazed commercial sellout of the project, a concept which is strongly conveyed throughout the album, as rappers spin poetic tales about suburban life, achieved education, transportation by Volvo, and incomprehensible amounts of wealth and sex. And to act like wealthy hip hop sellouts, Beauty Party is complete with classic street beats and cheesy computer effects (the ’80’s are back, right?).
However, the hip hop collaborative has an undersized, over-used vocabulary – after a while, the words in both style and content become repetitive and obnoxious. Following a number of listens, one has to wonder if these words are contrived to sound ridiculous within the Majesticons’ greater role as sellouts, or if they simply are ridiculous by nature.
Many songs convey a strong impression of restlessness and campiness, both of which work well with the ironic nature of the album. After a monotonous spoken intro, the first full-length track, “Piranha Party,” is at once bold and abrasive; brisk freestyles and beats create an outrageous clamor that brims of relentless confidence. Eventually the music settles down a bit into a mellow R&B mood (such as in “Luv Thief Party” and “Helicopter Party”) while still offering the basic elements projected earlier in the album – especially the ever-present and often tacky beat.
Each song has its own personality that contributes to the album as a whole – still, there is nothing on this record that most ears have not heard before. In creating an intentionally stereotypical album, Mike Ladd and the rest of Majesticons have, of course, not broken any rules or done anything innovative. Thus, they have created a vital part of their project, but have not provided any way for listeners to join in on the fun – which leaves the songs lackluster and the album on the shelf.

Allan Douglas can be reached at