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Up Against The Legends
here’s something exhilarating about ripping off the Jesus and Mary Chain. Perhaps it’s the pure sonic violence that propels groups as varied as Oasis to The Raveonettes to don the relentlessly loud atmospherics and perfect pop heart of the Scottish pioneers. From the intense squall of Psychocandy to the droning sleaze of Honey’s Dead, the Jesus and Mary Chain deconstructed the confines of the pop music genre, by introducing it to both blistering noise and shocking fragility.
Though many try and have tried, there is a complexity to this formula that is often overlooked: the only way to successfully incorporate the style of Chain is to interpret it.
Enter Oasis, who in 1994 took the world by surprise as they infused their Beatles-esque (OK, screw the -esque) pop songs to new sonic heights as they immersed their song craft in layers of distortion and fuzz. While borrowing an essential element from their fellow UK forbearers, they managed to keep the formula invigorating by refusing to get lost in the muck.
Lately, artists such as the Raveonettes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have attempted, without tremendous results, to elevate their own personal style above that of their obvious influences. The Swedish band, the Legends, is out to radically modify this misconception that imitation is certain artistic suicide.
To describe the Legends, imagine the Stone Roses with ridiculously loud guitars fronted by Ben Gibbard’s Smiths loving identical twin. An idea as preposterous as it is remarkably achieved; the Legends manage to escape the hindrances that such direct influences tend to evoke.
To put it simply, there isn’t a record that I’ve heard this year as appealing and complex as Up Against Legends. Its distortion soaked pop sensibilities mix perfectly with its bruised vocal harmonies. From the screaming maelstrom that defined 80s alternative to the plucking treble of 60s surf-style guitars, the brilliance of this record is in its balance, perfectly achieved in its apex, “There and Back.”
From its heartbroken lyrics to its hungover atmosphere, “There and Back” evokes a desperate, confused mindset with warm production consoling the void left by lost love. There is something liberating in the familiar keyboard inflections, earnest handclaps and muted but driving drums. A major concept of the rest of the album, the Legends chose to transform what would normally be pining heartbroken melodies into dense driving rockers.
Album opener, “Call it Ours” is a driving declaration highlighted with its bright guitar riffage and optimistic chorus: “We can have whatever we need / We can call it ours.” Anchoring the middle of the record is the scorching rocker, “Right On”, which resembles a juxtaposition of garage-rock grunge and lighthearted pop abandon as it switches from chorus to chorus, serious to sad, determined to carefree, in the time it usually takes a great band to build one great hook.
On “Nothing To Be Done,” a duet that recalls the best moments of the Chain’s “Munki”, the male verse, female verse, combined chorus sounds as fresh and exciting, if not more interesting, than the entire Raveonettes catalog.
This is the immediate draw of The Legends in comparison to similar bands. Every song on Up Against Legends is a potential single, and perhaps more importantly, every song on Up Against Legends is a unique creation from the lo-fi “Just Like Honey”-esque “Your Song” to the (almost too) impeccably produced “When the Day is Done”, from the distorted squeals and sonic abuse of “Breaking Time Breaking Lines”, to the acoustic driven Brit-pop of “The Kids Just Wanna Have Fun”.
Such diversity results in a near perfect experiment, a conglomeration of initially disconnected genres that somehow meld together into an intensely pleasurable aural masterpiece. The Jesus and Mary Chain and Oasis have faded into obscurity… Ladies and Gentlemen, here are the Legends.
Reviewed by: Kyle Nelson
Reviewed on: 2004-10-21
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