Klaxons – Surfing The Void

Release Date 23/08/2010 (Polydor)

By Chris Gilliver

‘Touching The Void’ is an excellent documentary in which two intrepid mountaineers try to climb the almost vertical face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. The film climaxes when one of the climbers has to cut the rope between him and the other to stop the other from dragging them both off a cliff. After falling several hundred feet he survives, crawling downhill, pissing himself as he goes to keep himself warm, to meet the other shocked climber at base camp.

In a metaphorical sense, the Klaxons have experienced a similar ordeal. After all it’s seemed like one long fuck up since the dizzying heights of ‘Myths Of The Near Future’. On the one hand they were set an incredibly difficult (you might say unscalable) task – that of creating an album to match or surpass their first and meet fans and critics impossibly high expectations. On the other it seems as though they’ve made a mess of things. Even a casual observer such as myself could pick up on the feeling that the Klaxons boys were probably taking too many drugs (probably both in quantity and kind). Then there was the shelved first attempt at Surfing The Void – to what degree this was record company interference remains to be seen – and continuing rumours (now confirmed) that they nearly split.

But battered and bruised though they are they’ve survived, and – hopefully without pissing on themselves – they’ve finally delivered a finished version of their sophomore album. But did they touch the void or surf gloriously over it?

All evidence points to the former. This is a good album without a weak track. But there is an overall weakness present, both in that the general standard is lower, and that not one song comes close to the moments of undeniable magic on Myths Of The Near Future.  Nothing matches the da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-aa-aahhh of ‘Golden Skans’, or the phenomenal reworking of ‘It’s Not Over Yet’. In fact, nothing really stands out at all, neither as evidence of blinding quality or a lack of it.

Their basic sound remains pleasing to the ear, and though they’ve been gone for a long time, it’s changed little. The instrumentation is slightly rockier and heavier. Sampling’s gone the way of the Dodo, but an overwhelming sense of darkness still prevails. Ultimately the Klaxon’s music is fundamentally unaltered – call it New Rave if you like. Who gives a fuck about such scene-manufacturing bullshit? But if it came to a choice between retaining their sound or their knack for penning unbelievably good pop songs, they’ve sacrificed incorrectly. What good is a pleasant overall sound if the songs themselves don’t set you on fire?

Yet the songs are both strong and enjoyable. Only the title track ‘Surfing The Void’ disappoints in the first half of the album. ‘The Sames Space’ stands slightly above the rest as the moment where they come closest to recapturing their former greatness.

Somehow STV sounds like the Klaxons lost their way, and in the colossal effort to just complete and release a follow up album, they’ve grasped desperately onto the fundamentals of their first without managing to recreate its spirit or quality.

This is the sound of a band that has barely survived. The Klaxons touched the void, but they did not surf over it. The miracle is that though bloodied they did survive, and now they’ve ridded themselves of the curse of their second album, they can get back to creating something of outstanding class. For now, we’ll have to make do with this…

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