hirteen Senses have a witless name; like talking about a fifth dimension, it seems a bit mind-bending but is actually nonsense. Their debut album, The Invitation, was the kind of post-Coldplay piano-led easy-listening corporate indie that propelled Keane into rehab. It’s pretty tuneful, pretty pleasant, pretty inoffensive, but totally lacking in individuality, bite, and bona fide tunes.
For their second album, Thirteen Senses have decided to rock out a bit more. Supposedly the guitars are mixed higher on Contact, but you’d be hard-pressed to notice—it’s hardly Sonic Youth territory. The title track opens the record with the kind of pointlessly chugging dumph-dumph-dumph-dumph piano + guitar chords that every clueless indie band with stadium pretensions has used at some point in the years since “Yellow” date-raped the airwaves. Some interesting backing vocals are muffled pointlessly in the mix; there are trippy guitars and some spacey echo on the vocals. Then it ends, with fading piano to close.
To their credit, this formula is strayed from occasionally. “Animal” starts promisingly, with an unusual bass sound, but quickly becomes a predictable exercise in chiming indie that has approximately nothing to do with the Byrds or Big Star. There is that dumph-dumph-dumph-dumph noughties British indie snare thing again though, and a guitar solo that completely fails to excite. Aren’t guitar solos meant to make you pull a face like you’re having the best orgasm ever? Singer Will South claims he feels “like an animal,” but animals eat their young and shit where they sleep and attack hapless ramblers and he fails to do any of that.
The litany of witlessness continues. “All the Love in Your Hands” utilizes the drumbeat you learn before you’re ready for paradiddles and a stolen guitar riff that I can’t quite place. “I believe in love because of you,” sings South, in slightly too-high, faintly tremulous manner. They call it falsetto because it’s fake. “Call Someone” contains some of the most banal lyrics you could wish for: “Call someone and tell them how you feel / Beat the ground / Show it how you feel / Show it all the ways that you’ve been taught to feel / And the bigger you are / The harder you fall / You just need to call and let someone know.” It is to the Samaritans what asking to get the lid off a jam jar is to the fire brigade.
Remember that old “South Park” episode when Stan’s grandpa tries to get him to commit euthanasia by locking him in a cupboard and playing him some Enya to illustrate the hell of life with age-dulled senses? “A Lot of Silence Here” reaches for Eno but sounds like Enya, as does “Spirals.” “A Lot of Silence Here” also sounds more than a little like “Streets of Philadelphia” by Springsteen, notching another noughties indie meme with ruthless efficiency.
Contact is trying its hardest to be profound, pretty, powerful, and passionate, but Thirteen Senses are a soporific piano band; every pitch they swing for, they miss. Arrangements are tepid, tunes unmemorable, mixing lifeless. Eager not be thought of as existing in Coldplay’s wake, they hired Coldplay producer Danton Supple for the boards; if this isn’t conviction-worthy evidence of a chronic lack of ideas and personality then I don’t know what is. Thirteen Senses are probably nice guys but their music is little more than a mood-inhibitor in an already over-medicated culture.