It is tempting sometimes to think that the British indie-pop market has become a ‘no-brainer’ for our US counterparts. They make it melody based with a steady rhythm section, they mention the weather and pine about distant girls (all Brits are prudish), they make sure it references an easy box of canonical rock nostalgia (Beatles, Smiths, Oasis etc) and they bring their own clothes over from New York (cos the British still don’t know anything about fashion). Oh, and they make sure that the NME know who the hell they are. I’m looking at you The Killers, Maroon 5, Panic at the Disco et al. Well, at least we Brits have still got sarcasm, hey Jeeves?!
The Isles are four-piece indie band all the way from New York and their debut album Perfumed Lands ticks all of the above boxes. To say that The Isles are ripping off the Smiths is kind of an insult to all the other bands they rip off, The Beatles, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Strokes and hey, Gene. Lead Vocalist Andrew Geller is all subdued Morrisey and opening track kicks off with Smiths’ Hatful of Hollow era mood and the usual soft jangly guitar that occasionally chimes at choruses. Geller also spits quasi Smiths like rhetoric choruses, “the breeze cannot decide to be fresh or to be cold”, except unlike The Smiths they never actually mean anything and nor are they funny. The first three tracks follow this similar pattern. The melodies are so light they’re anorexic, the rhythm section is so pedestrian that it feels like we’re keeping it up just by listening to it and well, Geller keeps singing lyrics like “I parked my car on easy street, my drums playing a dark beat, there’s no-one knockin at my door, I don’t know what the door knob’s for”, all in a tone that makes him sound like he’s hanging out the washing. Things get all silly on “Summer Looms”, when OK we start off with bit of British pastoral pop, then out of no-where a hyper-funky-sexy-lady bass line drops so high in the mix and so out of keeping with the rest of the track that you kinda of wonder whether the bassist is as bored as we are and just fancies a noodle around on some Ultimate Bass tabs. Anyway, chill for a bit — no-one likes a bully.
“Eve Of the Battle”, is stronger, offering a patient single guitar riff that allows the bass to wander off and add a little nuance.
“We Live a Receipt, We Take a Receipt” has a Strokes like structure of initial hint of melodic chords, before breaking into a metronome like rhythm guitars that are shadowed by bass that together build the tension before the original dynamic of the initial melodic chords really hit in. Intriguingly, The Isles mix this is up with key changes that do manage to avoid these tracks becoming simply verse-chorus-versus etc, it’s just the key changes really add nothing to the dynamics. The ominous frequency and aplomb that these key changes come in the shape of mean that they vary from a poor editing feel, to an “I’ve just learnt how to do this so I’m going to do it all the time” ethos. Sorry, but it’s like this week I’ve been mostly eating wonky. Lead single, “Eve Of the Battle”, is stronger, offering a patient single guitar riff that allows the bass to wander off and add a little nuance. The vocals are equally sharper and more measured, adding more poignancy to the signature melody of the chorus when it eventually does break. There, I’ve left it on a good note.