Alt-J – Relaxer
Alt-J have been Britain’s indie dark horse for a good few years now. Although perhaps not one of the most talked about or well-known bands on the scene, both of their first two albums received widespread critical acclaim, with their debut being nominated for the Mercury Prize. Relaxer seems to be a deliberate step away from their earlier work, eschewing the likeable and inoffensive sounds of the past and pursuing a more attention grabbing style. The problem is that it gives off the impression of trying too hard, the development of their music sounds forced rather than a natural growth. Beneath the frankly hideous artwork lies a half-hearted attempt at reinvention.
‘Hit Me Like That Snare’ is a ham-fisted pastiche of The Velvet Underground, while the band’s barely recognisable rendition of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ may not quite be the worst cover ever recorded, but I’m certainly struggling to think of any that surpass it. Much of the rest of the album goes too far in the opposite direction, and is composed of somber, lumbering ballads that offer little of interest, both musically and lyrically. The album’s only saving grace is ‘In Cold Blood’, with its menacing stomp, slick brass section and hints of Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’. Relaxer as a whole reminds me of Queen’s Hot Space; a truly dreadful record carried on the back of one solid single (in the case of Queen, the classic ‘Under Pressure’). By all means enjoy ‘In Cold Blood’, but the rest of Relaxer is best forgotten.