Everybody’s Dying to Meet You
Kanine Records (US), 2016
Review by Kent Manthie
London’s Flowers have returned with their sophomore album, Everybody’s Dying to Meet You, out this month; out on Fortuna Pop! in the UK and on the Continent and on Kanine in the US. Their debut, Do What You Want to Do, It’s What You Should Do, was a subdued, shoegazers’ delight, in the vein of so many great but short-lived acts from the early-mid 90s, such as the ethereal vocals mixed with distortion-laden guitars, Lush, the “standard-by-which-so-many-later-bands-have-been-(fairly or not)-based, My Bloody Valentine (but with less ferocious, feral intensity), the angel-voiced Cocteau Twins, the blissful depression of Galaxie 500 and some other “alt-pop” bands that had 2 or 3 good albums, full of potential, but then by the second-half of the 90s, they’d disappeared. It wasn’t for a lack of ample magic coming from these bands, more of a complex dynamic, the result of an on-rush of so many extant sub-genres which, by, say, 1996, had made their way, bubbling up from the underground, so to speak, that, by 1999, you really had to have something far beyond the pale, as far as uniqueness and iconoclastic archetypal drive to be able to, musically, hit the listener in the head with a hammer – get people’s attention; no, not the friggin’ radio, ugh! I mean, the attention of the word-of-mouth clique(s) which had pockets of existence all over the US as well as it’s own differentiated version in the UK, which, eventually, made it over to “the Continent”.
Anyway, so, yeah, Flowers…Their new album, out this month, Everybody’s Dying to Meet You, a great title -it has this brash, not-necessarily inwardly-directed hook to it, but that it may, is kinda cool. But that’s really neither here nor there. The album starts off with the wistful sounding “Pull My Arm”, which has a light-hearted “tug-o-war” between that clean, ringing guitar sound and the guitar with the distortion effects at full throttle. I must confess, I like how the distortion of guitarist Sam Ayres blends so nicely with singer Rachel Kenedy (yes – Kenedy, with one “n”) and her beautiful ethereal, angelic vocal stylings.
All the songs have a nice groove to them. They can best be described, at their most elemental, as “pop”, but with several caveats. For, what, exactly, does “pop” mean? At their best, Flowers seem to seamlessly blend that “pop” je ne sais quois with a kind of “noise-rock” element; the sonic force of Ayres’s guitar work and the rhythmic sparseness which Hockley brings to the fore. Beauty stripped down, or Stripped-down Beauty? That’s a tough call. In fact, I think there has to be somewhat of a middle ground in between those two.
Flowers studio work is top-notch: the production has really brought out the raw, unspoiled natural beauty and essence of their work. What you hear on Everybody’s Dying to Meet You is a lot like what you’d hear from a stage, a live show; no hiding behind multiple over-overdubs, avoiding the temptation to polish things up to an almost impossible-to-recreate level.
For me, the part that really does it for me is the wonderful “Tammy”. “Tammy” has a great force to it. A rough, strumming, almost psychedelic brooding guitar juxtaposed with Rachel’s haloed voice, which, when she comes in, to sing verses, does so with the guitar turned down, a kind of break between the seemingly desperation of the lyrics, e.g., a call out to someone named Tammy(?) – where the guitar has this icy glare to it, with a warming rest when Rachel plaintively sings, calling out to Tammy. My other favorite on this album is the very next tune, “Russian Doll”, another song in which the soothingly grating, lovely guitar – meditate on that for a bit and you’ll understand what I mean – is enhanced or put in its place by singing so beautiful, it’s a treat to hear. The album closes out with a somewhat sad sounding piece, “Bathroom Sink”, which (the song’s title) itself can evoke multiple connotations.
Whatever happens, I really hope Flowers keep up this great give and take between Rachel’s sweet, atmospheric, angel-vocals and Sam’s writhing, manic guitar work, backed up by the powerful, but not overly bombastic drummer, Jordan Hockley, who may not stick out so much since he’s more of a time-keeper and not an “all over the place” Tony Williams or Elvin Jones-type swisher. They already have a number of tour dates scheduled for a limited number of cities – all the ones you’d expect plus maybe a few surprises. But, if you happen to be in one of these areas and/or have a way to get to any of the shows, I’d be very envious of you, since I, too, would love to see these guys play on stage, live, and I think they would pull it off quite nicely; just the three of them, with, possibly, a guest. Maybe a rhythm guitarist, to add some bottom to the sound or…? I can’t really think of anything else that could possibly be missing – except you, if you’re not in the audience! Also: for more information and/or ordering info, check out http://kaninerecords.com/product/flowers-everybodys-dying-to-meet-you/