I was contacted by this band because my review of their last EP was ignorant. Ignorant, that is, of the remainder of their catalogue. They asked if I wanted to be sent a copy of a previous EP and their new album, and I said sure. I was hoping to be proven wrong, because this is an area of music that I'm hopelessly enamored with. Lately, it's been the wash-upon-wash synth rock majesty of M83 that I just can't get enough of. It's pipe dream music — movies that play out entirely like trailers, where it's all evocative imagery and visceral action choreographed with soaring ethereal crescendo and brooding decompression.
If M83 is the ultimate sci-fi pastiche soundtrack (I don't need to see Nightwatch — the lengthy, dazzling, M83-scored trailer is enough), then Saxon Shore is the ultimate John Hughes, get-in-touch-with-our-angst teen drama score. Your old man and my old man should get together and go bowling (cue "This Shameless Moment"). How trite can soundtrack-to-your-life music be when it makes the techno-pop of M83 seem earnest and gritty by comparison? Look no further than The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore, a death that is only exquisite enough to make me wish I were slitting my wrists to "Teen Angst." This is to Mogwai as The Raspberries were to The Beatles. It's imitative, plodding, predictable and bland to the point of making me wish I wasn't such a sucker for this candy in the first place.
So, yeah, I guess it's all for nothing. I wish Saxon Shore had managed to produce an album that made me denounce my past self for being so callous, but they didn't. At best, hearing this album could help me to better appreciate Takk, which in many ways pulls out the same tired bag of tricks. Yet Sigur Ros leave the cheesy keyboards to the experts and seem to have much more depth and intricacy to their titanic, woeful cacophonies.
Saxon Shore is for those of you who want more than one of the same outfit. For people who want as many versions of the thing they like as possible. This is dime-a-dozen emo coasting, sans vocals. There's no way I'd recommend it to anyone unless boredom or sameyness is what they are craving. Sure, it is that good-old layered crescendo/brooding decompress/repeat, but these dudes are shamelessly rote about it. If you won't take my word on how pretentious this crap is, look no further than the song titles below. They make Explosions in the Sky's track names look positively down-to-earth in comparison.
1. The Revolution Will Be Streamed
2. This Shameless Moment
3. With a Red Suit You Will Become a Man
4. Silence Lends a Face to the Soul
5. Isolated By the Secrets of Your Fellow Men
6. The Shaping of a Helpless Joy
7. Marked with the Knowledge
8. A Greatness at the Cost of Goodness
9. How We Conquered the Western World on Horseback
10. The Lame Shall Enter First