Days Are Gone... But the '80s are still here
Review: Haim – Days Are Gone
Published on October 2nd, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
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Haim’s debut album Days Are Gone is finally here! Are you excited? You’ve certainly been told to be, repeatedly, for quite some time now.
Critics have been going to laughable and frankly quite suspicious lengths to praise the Haim sisters, for whom the term “fast-tracked” is barely sufficient.
Even ‘thrust’ doesn’t quite do it…Haim have been prescribed, sold as this season’s ‘must-have’ accessory.
It seems that bands are now graded on how neatly they assimilate their influences, how fashionable it all is and what a slick all-round product it results in.
Actual creativity and inspiration, on the other hand, elicit such denouncements as “inconsistent”, “lacks focus” or even, applied negatively, “uncategorisable”.
Parallels could be drawn with the marking of school homework and exam papers: good use of references, tick…adequate grammar and punctuation, tick…clear, concise argument, tick…well done, eight out of ten.
Isn’t art more reflective of the human condition when it’s a sprawling mess of ideas, rather than a sheen-laden procession of targets met?
Let’s not lose our very essence here, people; Haim are Pret A Manger, well produced and easily digestible, pre-packaged and convenient.
Days Are Gone is a serviceable regurgitation of sultry, AOR, FM radio soft rock from the ’70s and ’80s, kind of like Fleetwood Mac with the tension filtered out and replaced with TV-soap-style ‘heartbreak’. Word.
Some of it is catchy, sure, but then too much stock can be placed in ‘catchy’ as a singular currency. Yawns are catchy. Diseases are catchy. An ax to the head is catchy.
A melody can stay with you all day, but then so can a hang over, or the lingering, nauseating taste of last night’s kebab.
It’s not necessarily the mark of genius; it can just as easily be the mark of commercial competence, a very different commodity.
For the first three tracks – namely “Falling”, “Forever” and “The Wire” (exciting titles, eh?) – things are actually quite promising.
Each number is illuminated by all manner of subtly quirky production touches, rendering them aural experiences brimming with intrigue.
Chugging guitars and bass anchor swirling mixes of high-end synths, clattering beats and syncopated backing vocals. They’re like remixes of themselves.
At their core, however, the tunes are easily imagined un-meddled-with; uneventful, uninspiring, overfamiliar. As such, you wonder as to what extent the band’s own vision dictated proceedings here.
Any benefit of the doubt is stripped away by the rest of the album, which eschews the quirkier elements and settles into a deflatingly dull groove.
Perhaps the band *was* responsible for the direction of those first three tracks, and the more straight-laced material was at their label’s insistence? We’d love to know.
The one exception from hereon in is “My Song 5″, which grasps hold of our attention by being – ooh my! – something else, in this case a kind of sparse, grimy modern R&B with grinding electronic bass. It’s pretty good.
Kudos also for the cool chuffing keys and staccato backing vocals of the title track. Otherwise, snooze…and that’s an assessment of the music, not a contrarian reaction to the hype. We’re open minded.
Maybe we should lighten up and stop expecting so much from our pop music. Maybe we should surrender to simple pleasures. Thing is, though, Days Are Gone ain’t all that pleasurable.
We call BS. And shenanigans…those too.
Days Are Gone is out now on Polydor.
Rocksucker says: Two Quails out of Five!