THE END OF THE WORLD French Exit (Pretty Activity)
An early exit without saying goodbye is known as a “French Exit”. Whether the phrase has anything to do with the French national team’s abysmal showing at this year’s Euro 2008, I’m not sure. It should suffice to say, though, that French Exit, the latest album by Brooklyn-based band The End Of The World, doesn’t reach the levels of atrocity that the strife-wrecked and unspeakably bad performances of the French team did.
Minimalistic and stripped down in nature, most songs found on this album are songs that can be easily represented by the 3 primary colors, guitars, drum and bass. As explained by frontman and drummer Stefan Marolachakis, it was a conscious production decision to help bring the emotion and meaning of the songs to the forefront instead of being buried under layers of sound. It’s a decision, however, that yields a largely inconsistent album that is plain stifle-a-yawn boring at its worst moments, and mesmerizingly captivating at its best.
The album opens with a short track apparently taken from one of the band’s live gigs featuring a short dialogue between the band and the audience. Depending on how you look at it, it could be taken as either quirky or insufferably pretentious, but either way it adds nothing to the album. Second track on the album, Jody, is a raucous track that makes some good headway in kicking off the album with its rattling drum beats and energetic vocals, but the album then takes an abrupt dive with the slow, soft rumble and twinkling yearnings of Somebody Else’s Dollar, before pulling upwards sharply again with the up-tempo bluesy clap-along number, I Don’t Wanna Lose. At this point, a pattern begins to establish itself as the slow alternative country number Learning unfurls amidst a swirl of pedal steel stylings and the requisite harmonica hooks. It’s a repetitive, slow-burning number that never really rises above the initial emotion. Railway Living starts off with a baffling piece of amateurish production that sounds like it was recorded on Skype, and for that transgression the track never really manages to take flight. The rest of the album follow more or less the same sequence laid out in earlier tracks, with soft pensive numbers interspersed with rousing songs that try to lift the listener out of their slumber. Last track on the album is probably the biggest detour taken by the band in terms of sonic approach, and truth be told, belonged somewhere closer to the start of the album.
The band’s biggest sin on this album is probably the track listing. French Exit is an attempt to create an album that evokes both the avant-garde lush soundscapes of Brian Eno and the MOR pop-rock catchiness of Train, but all it succeeds in doing is alienating its listeners who never quite really manage to get into the groove of the album, a result of the schizophrenic track listing. Listeners with more patience and tolerance for the occasional misstep might be willing to give this album a chance, as it can grow on you when taken on its own terms. Other listeners, however, might want to give this one a miss.
(Samuel C Wee)