olden Ball, a Philadelphian freak-rock quintet tinkering with all things “quirky,” does not make songs to sing along to. Antique Barking Swirls of Dawn has maybe three choruses, dually impenetrable and half-baked lyrics (“Will we sip the Nile / In your frothy tone / Will we slender slime / In young dripping groan”), and the kind of indecisive hurling of castoff musical excretions usually associated with fetal college bands.
But it wouldn’t be fair to isolate and blame Golden Ball for their faults. They’re simply part of a vaguely international, pseudo-educated artistic “weirdness” that’s infected a generation of American fiction writers (Safran Foer, Moody), American fashion (blissfully unaware New York women in saris and henna), and cinema. For every Michel Gondry and Matthew Barney there seems to be a horde of Golden Balls waiting to show just how damn quirky they and their art are.
Their particular weirdness isn’t an avenue into anything personal or rewarding. Golden Ball’s constant insistence on vaguely dissonant choral singing, half-a-minute departures into grizzled drums, and Creative Writing 110 titles (“Mermaid in Marmalade”) assault any listener’s good will. Hearing the grating guru stroll of the Doors creep into a “manifesto within my hips” (“The Course of Human Events”) is punishment. According to the band’s website, lead singer and songwriter David Chadwick revels in being unapproachable. When the album isn’t peddling its distortions of pop, it meanders in groaning instrumentals (“Blank,” “Stowaway Discovery”).
We need a life preserver, a sheet of crib notes for Chadwick’s lyrics—“Smash the grand canals of yore / Dance for what on earth we came for / Bursting free scented curiosity blooming ripe in the light”—and we need a way out. They may be completely sincere about their mannerisms (again, lots of off-beat shouts, soft, opium-den drumming, a general debt toward the woeful late-era Doors albums), but we don’t get anything from it. If it’s around for any other artistic emotion than self-congratulation, it’s failing.
Man Man can make wholly abrasive, atonal albums and still get their point—destruction as creation—across. Xiu Xiu, whatever else you may think of them, has some moral germination to their antics. Clearly one can be weird, self-loyal, and still engaged. Wake me up when Golden Ball finds themselves, their music, or something else they can call their own.
Reviewed by: Evan McGarvey
Reviewed on: 2007-03-12