Klaxons KlaxonsSurfing The Void
The musical equivalent of “don’t judge a book by its cover” should be the artwork of an LP. However, in this era of downloads, many people listen an album without ever getting to see it’s original cover. So, let’s change the terms, and consider the “cover” the videos that are put up on YouTube. It’s come to this. Let’s have a look at “ Echoes”. The first surprise: the Klaxons are now four instead of three. Second surprise: Their look seemed designed by a Humana window dresser addicted to the craziness protagonized by Empire Of The Sun when they took the MGMT vibe to an insane extreme. But, isn’t this from two or three seasons ago? What are the Klaxons doing wearing what they wore three years ago? First time around, they marked a trend (even if it was such a ridiculous and nonexistent trend as nu-rave). Let’s think again: “judge a book by its cover.” Or, in this case, judge “Surfing The Void”from this almost video, almost obscene in its posing, because the return of the Klaxons is again full of sci-fi references to parallel dimensions and paradoxes of time and space. Unfortunately, thought, it’s comparable to an episode of "Star Trek" in which the Enterprise has been stranded in one of those levels of reality where time and space seem to be a joke.
The gestation of "Surfing the Void" has been more than eventful. After the band's flirtation with a number of star producers ( Tony Visconti, Focus) they finally went into the studio with James Ford ( Simian Mobile Disco). The label was quick to bury their head in their hands. These songs were thrown out (all but "Valley Of The Calm Trees") and they once again got their hands dirty, this time under the guidance of Ross Robinson, known for his work with the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot. Or have we have forgotten that this nu-rave was nothing but a bastard brother (a better dressed one) of the nu-metal radio formula? In parallel to these goings-on in production, Jamie Reynolds stated that the literary references of the new album would move from J. G. Ballard, William Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon and Aleister Crowley, who had much influence on "Myths Of The Near Future"(UMVD, 2007), to new authors such as Simone Weil, Daniel Pinchbeck, Timothy Leary and Arthur Koestler. One wonders then how these high-level readings pair up with another confessed influence of the band for this second album - the biblical visions coming from the ingestion of the Peruvian hallucinogen ayahuasca. And there you have it: they are always on the edge of that ambiguous boundary where we will never know if Klaxons are pulling our leg or not.
The funny thing is that from the start of "Surfing the Void" there is room for hope. " Echoes", despite the " my eyes are burning" video, is a great song that moves from the silly post-teen nu-rave and takes the acceleration of the guitars and apocalyptic voices to a new level of drama that has no nothing to do with the (otherwise delicious) teenage angst of " Magick",but all to do with the nostalgic defeat of an adult looking into the infinity that threatens to engulfs him. "The Same Space" is a kind of interplanetary military march that could well mark the Klaxons steps towards a sound that’s more sincere and less poseur. "Surfing The Void",the title track, shows that it is possible to update "Atlantis To Interzone," escaping the clichés of their own sound and giving it wings by the way of disturbing keyboards and crackling galactic-rock guitars (not to be confused with the quietness of space-rock - there is tension here, and C rays are whipping at some distant galaxy). “Valley Of The Calm Trees” is the “ Golden Skans” of the disc. A potential single in which the Klaxons smooth out the ridges in their sound in order to reach an ecstatic guitar electricity that grows and curls up around itself like parsimonious columns of fire in the middle of space.
However, from here, the things that they do right in these four songs start to go awry. “ Venusia” sounds like the Midnight Juggernauts with half of a brain removed, “Twin Flames” couldn’t even be attributed to the lowest hour of Muse, “ Future Memories” falls into the plainness of the indolent pop formula, and “ Cypherspeed” pays tribute to The Prodigy in the worst way possible (that of the excessive megalomaniac trying to seem mysterious). The only tracks that stand out on this second part of the album are “ Flashover”, in which they return to the ring with the authenticity and freshness of yesteryear, and oddly, “ Extra Astronomical”, which at first listen has a bit of the “my ears burn”vibe, but eventually reveals itself as replete in its deliberately tacky Orientalist synths.
The problem with “Surfing the Void” is that everything is in its place: the common places of rave (or whatever the Klaxons and their generation understand this to be) have been eliminated completely; the guitars are an ultrasonic mess; the structures continue to pick at pop, just enough to lose the steam of dance-rock; the vocals long to be sung along with. So, everything is in place and yet there’s something wrong. It seems that, without the impulse of youth, the Klaxons are four guys entering adulthood, still grasping on to what once made them tick. They are like Peter Pan at six o'clock in the morning, lost in the maze of rooms in the club Neverland. When he reaches the toilets, he looks in the mirror and contemplates the wrinkles at the corners of eyes, and then decides it's time for another line of fairy dust. The problem is, the fairy dust only alters the perspective of the one who takes it. The rest of us continue to see the wrinkles. Raül De Tena