Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid
here are bands that are new and fresh and the instant you first hear them there’s this whiplash effect as you suddenly go “what the hell was THAT?” and even if you detect the threads leading back to other bands there is still something thrilling about the newness of it all.
Elefant are not one of those bands. Which means that they have to rely on subtler methods to keep attention focused on this modest (32 minute) debut collection from yet another guitar band from New York that sounds vaguely like the Strokes.
And it mostly succeeds – “Misfit” could almost be a Strokes b-side, but where Julian Casablancas plays the louche youth hanging around and anticipating heartbreak, Elefant’s Diego Rivera seems to be neck-deep in the middle of it. “Tell me your name/Tell me your story/’Cause I’m into it,” he sings, and the desperation of the late night pickup squirms through the song. “Now That I Miss Her,” “Tonight Let’s Dance” (“like we’re in love,” naturally) and “Bokkie” are all not so much pop songs about love lost as love in the midst of becoming muddled and adulterated.
In purely sonic terms, even “Misfit” is cleaner and more varied than Is This It was, and it’s when Elefant stretch out that they sound less like scenesters and more like a band with true potential. The opening bass riff of “Bokkie” may be Interpol-by-numbers, but the song itself is more interesting, and the keyboards on “Tonight Let’s Dance” make it cutely fuzzy around the edges.
There is more variation in the second half of the album, with “Static On Channel 4” actually being acoustic. Unlike the preceding songs it’s calm and measured, Rivera averring, “when you will hear me calling/you will turn around”. “Annie,” and “Love” skew slightly artier than you might have expected; Elefant aren’t an experimental band by any stretch of the imagination, but the angularity is a welcome addition to the hookiness already displayed.
These aren’t major touches, of course, and to the casual observer there’s really no need to get this album if you already own Is This It or Turn On The Bright Lights. The songs are definitely hooky, with a pleasant tendency to form earworms, but most won’t feel they’re missing anything by passing Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid over.
But just as the avid death metal fan can distinguish small gradations in the music that elude the rest of us, those small touches will be enough for fans of the genre to grow to love Elefant. Ultimately the strengths and weaknesses here are summed up by Rivera’s apology to the title subject in the closing “Ester”: “And the way I tried to win you/I was being young”. Enthusiastic and endearing, yes, but doubtless more potent once they have some experience under their belt.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2003-09-02