Sympathetic Stupid

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Department Of Eagles - The Cold Nose

Department Of Eagles are scary good.

Here's the backstory. Two kids stuck in the same room at college, and instead of abusing each other for food misappropriation and inappropriate partying, they make a metric shedload of music together - from breaks to hip-hop to new rock to old rock. And someone publishes it. And what's more, it's really good.

The Cold Nose, for me, is the spiritual successor to Since I Left You, the magical LP from the dearly-departed Avalanches. Since I Left You was the classic summer party album, the one that you could leave on repeat for seven hours without anyone complaining. The Cold Nose (in the US, it's called The Whitey On The Moon UK LP for only slightly interesting historical reasons) gives the same feel, albeit touching only briefly on the beats and breaks ground The Avalanches tilled so successfully.

This album almost feels like that mix-tape you made years ago which still sits in the glove-box because you haven't been able to beat it since. Noam Chomsky Spring Break 2002 is classic beats; an infectious, tricky rhythm buried under piles of samples. Yeah, microchips and the 'net let anyone pirate a sequencer and do this stuff, but it takes skill to do it as well as this. Sailing By Night has a similarly catchy beat, but a contrastingly spare arrangement, with guitar and vocals over the top. When the strings kick in two-thirds of the way through, this one goes through the roof, and ends up in light drum'n'bass territory.

Romo-Goth is kinda very different. It sounds like nothing so much as a Franz Ferdinand/Strokes jam - though the coda harks back to the earlier mood, and the track never really rocks all the way out. Family Romance takes us in a similar direction, but goes all Beatle-esque in the guitar and bass parts. It's kinda Your Mother Would Know crossed with I Will - but these comparisons are futile, cause then it goes almost Polyphonic Spree in the breakdown.

And then another left turn. Forty Dollar Rug, starting with an ethereal Avalanches-style choral sample, then breaks into a nice clean hip-hop thing with fake British accents; nods maybe to The Streets but not quite. And then, as is becoming customary, in the breakdown it turns into something else entirely, eventually ending up almost skanking around the studio. The epitome of this coat-of-many-colours behaviour is The Curious Butterfly Realises He Is Beautiful - a big solid beat, more operatic samples, a bit of Wes Anderson and a great organ line.

So, in amongst this sea of references to genres and other bands, where exactly is the album? It's in there somewhere, amongst the well-worked beats, guitar, heavy samples and post-punk vocals, and influences proudly on the sleeve. The thread binding it all is the musical sensibility of these two; Butterfly Emerging and Iron Chrysalis. And, as the pseudonyms and some track titles suggest, there's a strong jokey sophomoric feel about the whole thing which is actually seriously appealing. But only cause the music gives it legs.