That Horse Must Be Starving
cursory search for Fred Avril on the internet yields numerous mentions of the now-famed incident in which Fred Durst and Avril Lavigne were found to be buddy buddy backstage at the MTVIcon ceremony for Metallica. Perhaps, however, far more searches will begin to feature the singular talents of laptop maestro Fred Avril and his well-hyped, in France, debut album That Horse Must Be Starving.
Early on, in the outro section of “The Date,” the second track on the album, the underlying structure of the album is revealed completely. It is a simple funk number that evokes some of David Holmes’ soundtrack work replete of Avril’s whispered claims that someone is, indeed, a bad boy. And while the production flourishes of That Horse Must Be Starving may fool many- in nearly every track there is a whiff, a hint, a dash of the funk.
And while the term funk is perhaps the most misunderstood term in the musical canon right now, the shorthand works. The electrified swing of “Velvet Blues” lurches towards the definition of a beat as it makes it way underneath the stultifying effects of Avril’s tight-handed production. It’s by far the most interesting track on the disc- the vocals are stretched and twisted until they barely resemble the English language, while the backing track sounds like the aural equivalent of a car slowly running out of gas underlain by a strict drum machine slowly churning in the background.
Also one of the more fascinating tracks on the album, “Global Headphones” mines a sort of shuffling ambience, complete with piano and airy strings. The mood is a somber one, but the funk still is present in the simplistic drum machine as it shuffles its way towards the end of the seven minute track. Lethargy never sounded so cool.
Conversely, “Like Everybody Else” makes like Bowie fronting Air with its swarthy synth and guitar arrangement, revealing itself to be both plodding and uplifting at the same time. While it isn’t necessarily the most transcendent moment on the disc, playing spot-the-influence is ridiculously easy and almost makes the track a joy to listen to.
The word almost, though, typifies the album. Avril almost approaches cohesiveness. Avril almost captures a sort of synthetic funk that has been missing from the recent work of Beck or Air. Avril almost teeters over dangerously into trip-hop territory. Avril almost escapes the trappings of his discovery of MAX/MSP accoutrements in his productions. Avril almost makes an album worth buying.