Midnight Movies Midnight Movies

[Emperor Norton; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: shoegazer, dark pop, art rock
Others: Nico, Broadcast, Interpol, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine

I have to remind myself on occasion that not all musicians are trying to reinvent the wheel with their work. As much as I'd like every new album I hear to sound completely original, I understand that this is just an impossibility. However, listening to bands who pay respect to the sounds of those who have come before them can be just as enjoyable, if the intent is sincere and the end result is great. Let's face it, with the unending hodgepodge of genre fusions and revivals going on these days, it's virtually impossible to be a completely original act. But as we have all seen over the past few years, there are usually a few bands that slip through the cracks and rejuvenate our love for those older albums we used to listen to.

Midnight Movies, a trio from Los Angeles, is a band that believes in tradition; a tradition of solid, yet darkly sophisticated, pop music that does just about everything right. That, in and of itself, is an accomplishment. The band consists of Gena Olivier (vocals/drums), Larry Schemel (guitar), and Jason Hammons (keyboard/guitar). First, let me tell you just how absolutely amazing Olivier is on a drum kit. Meg White would give her left (big) tit to have even an eighth of Olivier's talent. And if Meg's talent was somehow this good, she'd end up outshining Jack. In addition to Olivier's drumming, something that is also immediately noticeable is that she sometimes sounds almost identical to '70s icon Nico. If her voice isn't an homage, then I'd say she could be the second coming. There's even perhaps a bit of Trish Keenan from Broadcast thrown in for good measure. But comparisons aside, Olivier is truly an amazing thing to hear and watch. If you ever get to see her perform, I have a feeling you'll understand what I mean.

The album begins with a very strong track called "Persimmon Tree," which instantly delivers an immense level of determination and a hope that the rest of the album will hold up to its greatness. The song is intense, dark, passionate, and fucking perfect. While the next song, "Love or a Lesson," doesn't contain the intensity of its predecessor, it's a song that is equally literate. Although dark at its core, the sounds that come out are fuzzy and warm. A couple other songs very worthy of discussion are "Human Mind" and "Just To Play," which prove there are loads of truly great moments dispersed throughout this album. "Just To Play," in particular, is the first song that really came alive for me; no repeated attempts required. And even when the rest of the songs here aren't as great as these, they are still tremendously good.

Midnight Movies may sound like an album that could get lost in the shuffle upon first listen, but repeated listens shows that it is a highly successful debut release. Just as Interpol's debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights, showed that paying respect to the past with an updated approach can be highly enjoyable, Midnight Movies show they can do the same thing with equally comparable results. And I have to say that I feel the same way about this album as I did Turn on the Bright Lights in the early days of its release; so 2005 could turn out to be a really good year for Midnight Movies if I have my way.

1. Persimmon Tree
2. Love or a Lesson
3. Blue Babies
4. Human Mind
5. Oh Twilight
6. Strange Design
7. Mirage
8. Words For a Love Song
9. Just To Play
10. Tide and Sun
11. Time and Space