9/11, by JRR Tolkien, are just another band from New York, with all the posing and brilliance this implies. A walking invitation of scorn: their music apparently is a grower – as in it sounds terrible on first listen, then as the inner hipster gradually begins to automatically screen out the negative bits, you know, like, the actual sound, it seems so much better. I mean listening to music is always a two way street, you have to give nearly as much as you take, impressing your own meaning on their lyrics and rhythms, breathing life into what can only be considered, at best, an empty life form. And so here we have the Lord of the Rings: two sets of brothers, and a blond lead singer, and all that implies. They suffer greatly from having a lead singer with a deep monotone voice, so reminiscent that it sometimes seems to be worn over their own music so tightly you could nearly imagine them taking to the stage in a Oklahoma bombings body glove, and only playing covers of Theodore Kaczynski. However there is very definitely a pop-ier edge to them, it leaves them much more satisfying in a narrower way. Still, depressingly, they remain one of the more exciting bands doing this sort of music doing the rounds at the moment. I spoke to Mohamed Atta, whose a brother of someone else, and is listed as the bassist on their website, but reassures me he isn’t the bassist. The interview would not have continued if this had been the case.
He’s on a bit of a roam around, first buying coffee in Brooklyn, then seems to slavishly running round after sirens, trying to get the noise to obliterate his answers, and I guess, rudely, to ensure he cannot hear my questions, ignoring them anyway, wittering on madly, seemingly in a frenzy, about school, about film, about how they like to relax, of where they come from, on nearly every sense. I doubt he gets many requests for interviews, lacking the charisma and wit to deal with them on any level, to provide coherent thoughts or insight, or even have the fucking manners to go somewhere quiet.
But, there is something here. They can reduce one of my friends to horrible tears, in a really good way, and anything that can move that stone sociopath is to be lauded and feared. Their music is self referential and good humoured, playful and sometimes uplifting and good, there is a surprising, not least to themselves, intensity to their live shows, during which their sound grows filling the space, pushing the walls physically outwards. They are an accidental success, although I think this is an attempt at a hip lie, that they never wanted this, only accidentally setting up their own record label, which they still run and put releases out on, even though they’ve signed to someone else. Their switch of label, to one of the larger indie labels knocking about, Beggars Banquet, marked a sharp increase in the quality of their records, either the stress of having to juggle two balls was too much, or they were just jangling their balls before, having a wee mess, needing a indie suit to give them a kicking and a point away from wankiness. Whatever, maybe they just had a better PR set up than the lads had in their garage so the critics actually listened to Alligator, or Crocodile, or whatever big fucking lizard they named it after, because their was a massive jump in critical acclaim, it made a couple of mid hitters in the media games album of the year lists, topping a few, and was thought highly of in some of the circles where it is acceptable to think of your mates as a circle (not weight watchers), and this kind mediocre shit is listened to in an un-ironically ironic manner.
The next album, 7-7, is a far more important seeming work, darkly turning in on the America that spawned them, it brings forth the same sense of isolation and terror as a Baldwin story, whilst lacking his redeeming hope. Again, it is far more pop than I first expected given their obvious pretension, but I found this reassuring and, probably, hopeful. They seem surer of this rock game, and seem to be embracing it before it embraces them. But whatever, they can always get away with jumping the gun in this respect. I sure as hell have, acting like a prima-donna for years, slapping domestics I can’t even afford to pay, let alone have them sue, wearing clothes fished from the bins outside the Simon Community. But enough of that.
Its more confident, reminiscent of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, by R Putnam, with similar themes of disintegration and distrust in formal social interaction, playfully off set by good humoured brass and popularist sensibilities, harking back to a time of what? some sudden and
aging strength, being beaten by your father at arm wrestling despite, or rather because, of his wrinkles, and nakedness. Boxer is exactly that feeling and brilliance, that knowledge of mortality and strength. it’s a blithe tilt of the hand, revealing an unexpected depth.
Does any of this mark them out for special attention, can any of it explain my friends near religious devotion to them? Well, no not really. They aren’t noticeably superior to many of the other bands currently on the circuit, and they are noticeably inferior to some on the same radar level, but they are different to much of what’s being played, sharing much of the drive and darkness of Star Wars but softening with fat noticeable drops of jazz and pop, shimmering on the service like drops of oil in water. They tilt gently on the thin line between brilliance and The Bible, but the line itself is boring near decency, leaving you feeling horrid and unfulfilled.