Written By: Mike Acker
Label: Vagrant – Rating:
Which side of the Atlantic sets the trends in music? It’s a question that’s been around as long as there have been methods of getting music from the UK to the USA. The Beatles listened to and were influenced by American acts like Elvis and Little Richard in the 1960s. A decade later they were the driving creative force behind many stateside bands like the Byrds.
In 2009 the question of trend-setting and influence in the world of electro synthesized alternative rock comes up when listening to the newest record from the British outfit Thenewno2 entitled You Are Here.
You Are Here, the work of Londoners Dhani Harrison and Oliver Hecks, introduces the style of thenewno2 with the first track. “So Vain,” relies heavily on layers of synthesizers and a psychedelic backing rhythm that is a staple of the entire record. It’s in the first track that I felt Thenewno2’s similarity to the American group Ghostland Observatory. Although where Ghostland Observatory tends for a quicker, more dance type beat, Thenewno2 chooses to stay mellower.
The old saying goes that Great Britain and the United States are two countries separated by a common language. Listeners to You Are Here may need a quick language lesson when the record reaches the third track, “Back To You.” After the relative calmness of the record’s first two tracks, the shift to a louder volume of backing instrumentals highlights the lines, “No surprises, not for me, every time the mobile rings.” For people not versed in the BBC, in the Queen’s English, “mobile,” means cell phone.
The mellow vibe picks up again in the middle of You Are Here. “Give You Love,” plays almost like an electric rock love ballad. Again, “Give You Love,” is an example of the shifting nature of Thenewno2. As soon you get the feeling of the soft tones of the song, the pace and instrumentation picks up. As soon as you get the feel for that, it drops right off again, and so on and so forth. That may sound unappealing, but the effect is an enjoyable musical complexity.
You Are Here finishes off the way it starts, with an array of electric piano tricks and melodious vocals that showcases some of the range of Thenewno2. I keep coming back to Ghostland Observatory because I believe that both these bands are examples of the versatility of electro alternative rock. It is in You Are Here’s final track “Wind Up Dead,” and in the high vocal tone of the lyrics that the American electro rock influence is most evident.
Thenewno2 bring an assortment of abilities to a type of music that is being shaped and molded in all types of ways by all types of bands. Today’s bands may be listening to groups in America, experimenting with electronic music and sounds, and turning out records like You Are Here. Groups on this side of pond my hear a band like Thenewno2, and be influenced to make the next big leap in electronic music.