In a recent Danny Baker hosted BBC programme about pop music Boy George talked of how he usually steers clear if someone releases an album wherein you can tell they’re trying to be trendy; “I want my David Bowie to be David Bowie”, he said. I thought of this when listening to the new Darkstar album. In some ways you could argue that there is something of the “trying to be trendy” about News From Nowhere, a record that sees the previously dubstep/ electronic ensemble branch out into something more akin to Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear; experimental, indie-folk or psychedelia.
The title of the album, I assume, hints at their moving into a country cottage for its recording…..away from any concrete jungle big city specificity and, to an extent, time itself. “Every place has a story”, explains member James Young when talking about the record’s theme and intrigue, “no matter how quiet, remote or disconnected”. It also represents just how Darkstar manage a change in direction, develop their sound and do it in a way that is perhaps being trendy, yet is so good to be beyond either cynicism or criticism. This is a record that in places even outscores the latest Animal Collective, due to its organic flow and aversion to over-egg the pudding.
The signs were around late last year when the band dropped ‘Timeaway’ as a giveaway; it is a typically elegant slice of happy/sad, pastel-coloured nostalgia. The loose-limbed, sideways groove of ‘Armonica’ stutters and drifts yet is intriguing all the way, and ‘A Day’s Pay for a Day’s Work’ is the Beach Boys if they were instead the Yorkshire Dale Boys. ’Amplified Ease’ and ‘You Don’t Need a Weatherman’, meanwhile, are upward and expectant finger-tapping workouts in eccentricity that stay on the right side of pretension.
Stories From Nowhere closes with the delicately handled, half asleep tones of ‘Hold Me Down’, that remind me of the 1944 British wartime movie A Canterbury Tale. Now, what wouldn’t I give to grow old in a place like this…