Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Our Inventions - Lali Puna

Our Inventions

Lali Puna
Morr Music Records.

SCQ Rating: 59%

Like anyone half interested in the cause, I’ve read my share of “R.I.P. Music Journalism” articles and essays, admittedly splitting my attention between the viewpoint and whom the viewpoint belongs to. For the most part, the cynicism launched toward music-writers, be they real journalists or bloggers, feels biased and lifeless to me but, every so often, someone comes along and hits the nail on the head. Whoever commented “R.I.P. Music Journalism” on the Drowned In Sound review for Lali Puna’s new record, I commend thee. (Full disclosure: it wasn’t me, but only because I haven't registered for a DIS account. I tweeted my repulsion over it a day earlier.) Quoting Drowned In Sound, whose opinion I usually respect:

“We’re past making excuses for electronica now, right? The novelty of creating music without traditional instruments has worn off, so we demand sonic invention, excellent writing or emotional punch from musicians choosing laptops over guitars. On this basis: Epic fail, Lali Puna.”

One doesn’t need to hear Our Inventions to detect the bias and overall laziness in this opening paragraph but listening to the band’s long-awaited follow-up to Faking the Books does place reviews like this in a unique light. Compared to that 2006 predecessor which featured robust rock dynamics loaded with spiky guitar and weighty live-drums, Our Inventions IS lacking. Having shied away from their spot on the indie-tronic mantle, Lali Puna seem content to experiment under Morr’s twee-umbrella, doling out intricate and studied electro-pop instead. Several of these tracks manage propulsive or melodic hooks able to catch us off-guard, like the futuristic nursery-rhyme of ‘Safe Tomorrow’ and the tender lilt ‘That Day’, but the record loiters an unforgiving middle-ground that no doubt attracts lugheads who instinctively believe electronica is crutched on sympathies. Our Inventions represents its genre’s attributes as wholly as, say, Chinese Democracy represents rock music’s and although I can’t understand grieving one’s passive-aggressive genre stereotypes on a subpar record, I can acknowledge how albums this indifferent can bolster the opinion of people who treat electronica with ignorance. Music journalism, hobble on!

This Weilheim-based group deserves closer attention as fervently as fans deserve something worth talking about. Besides an obvious shift toward low-key balladry and feather-lite pop noodling, Our Inventions is a conversation-killer, as even highlights like ‘Remember’ connect so instantly because we’ve heard their compositional gears at work before (courtesy of Morr-associated acts like The Notwist and MS. John Soda). For all the critics intent on judging Lali Puna’s latest as a microcosm of electronica’s credibility, Our Inventions comes off as little more than a quaint bedroom record. And considering how this is a band responsible for at least two forward-thinking albums of the past decade, maybe that’s exactly what they were aiming to accomplish.

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