We are back nearer to the mainstream May’s Album Of The Month with Django Django’s second album (I’ll avoid the term sophomore), “Born Under Saturn“.
I’d enjoyed their debut from 2012. The track “Default” had appeared on that year’s Rough Trade Counter Culture CD. It was melodic and clever. I felt they had a certain kinship with Alt-J and Hot Chip – interesting rhythms, vocal harmonies, non-rock instrumentation. I can sometimes be a little bit switched off to the slight “clever clever” air to the bands. They are obviously very talented but it’s neither exclusively music from the head, from the heart or for the feet. However when the quality is good, none of this is a problem.
The new album is very good. All of the elements from the first album are there but are stronger and more refined.
For those unfamiliar with the band, they are a four piece based in London via Edinburgh. They’re partly ex-art school which is absolutely no bad thing. Any part of our educational establishment that spawned Roxy Music is fine and dandy by me. There is a Beta Band connection with David McClean being the brother of the Beta Band’s John McClean. Again, the wonderful “Three EPs” compilation is another reference point.
The album is highly musical. There is evident technique, especially with the vocal arrangements. But does it get to the heart?
Slowly but surely is the answer for me.
The second track “Shake and Tremble” is an early favourite. There’s a lovely reverb heavy surf guitar in the introduction and the track a Velvet Underground sense of abandonment, particularly in the chorus.
The other immediate standout is “First Light”. Again, it’s melodic and those vocal harmonies are there with a juddering rhythm section burbling away under it. This is from a live session at RAK Studios. There are a few other tracks on youtube from the same session, all of which are checking out.
Whilst there is variety through the album, it is unmistakably from a certain place in the band’s development. There is a confidence, particularly the way that dance floor rhythms are used to bed some complicated harmonic arrangements. There are brass and woodwind sections, with a lovely saxophone solo on “Reflections” in particular. This is a band who’ve got places to go. I’d really like to hear some of these tracks remixed and stretched out for the dance floor.
Finally a word on the package. The band have excelled themselves. The outer and inner sleeves are things of beauty in lovely heavyweight cardboard. The vinyl in particular is gorgeous, 180g with a dappled orange finish (I’m a sucker for a bit of orange).
The icing on the cake is the bonus material. They’ve put together a mix CD “Mars Needs Women” showing their influences. It’s as varied as you would expect given the open mindedness that is evident from the album itself. The Scottish humour is clear with an Ivor Cutler track and in particular there is plenty of reggae and dub. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the bonus CD is worth getting, let alone the parent album. The band show exquisite taste and again move far beyond the indie template.
They have managed to cram in both the Clash’s version and the original of this fantastic tune.
June’s Rough Trade selection has just arrived and it is the Franz Ferdinand/Sparks collaboration.
As ever – enjoy.