Klaxons are a band that always wrap their musical offerings in several layers of window-dressing, arcane references and imagery. Their Mercury Prize winning debut album Myths Of The Near Future was presented to the world three years ago. With its nods to JG Ballard, William Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon and Aleister Crowley, the apparent trail-blazers for “nu-rave” often came across more like the shambolic yet thrillingly pretentious friend your older brother brings round to befuddle and intrigue you all at once with his show-offy quotes and allusions.
Now the much anticipated follow-up finally appears, after a rumoured “troubled” couple of years in Camp Klaxon. Cometh the new album, cometh the new raft of references. There’s even a reading list, compiled by the band’s Jamie Reynolds, which features everyone from Simone Weil, Daniel Pinchbeck, Timothy Leary and Arthur Koestler. But leave all of that to one side if you can, and you will find that what’s left – as before – is an album perfectly approachable on its own terms. An album that sees some interesting development in the band’s sound, and one that will arguably hold up against its prize-winning predecessor.
Immediately noticeable is the distinct lack of anything that could be described as “rave” (be it “nu-rave”, “old rave” or whatever). This was always more a confection of PR and journalistic types than any accurate definition of a genre, and here seems less relevant than ever. That Klaxons are, give-or-take, a rock band seems evident, particularly on the fiercer, darker, (better) tracks like Surfing The Void, Extra Astronomical and Flashover. The title track in particular, all raucous instrumentation and crash-bang dynamics, features parts that would not be out of place on the more theatrical end of the pomp-metal spectrum; while the vocal veers from a flat, deadpan and very English prog rock style (Flashover), to awestruck mysticism (Echoes) to Surfing The Void’s shouts-and-falsetto combination.
Despite all the erudite references in interviews it is, ironically, difficult to make out words and piece together what individual songs might actually be about. The general impression is of a generalised, portentous mysticism, all “echoes from other worlds” (Echoes), “sun gods” (Valley Of The Calm Trees) and “celestial machines” (Extra Astronomical). This, combined with several songs mentioning outer space (The Same Space, Venusia, Extra Astronomical) contribute further to the air of theatrical pomposity that is as appealing as it is seemingly sincere.
The inclusion of more human moments, usually linked together by some form of affection and establishment of a connection, makes the work as a whole less impersonal and more approachable. Indeed, the final words on the last track, the Prodigy-like Cypherspeed, are “Find the love inside”.
Only Future Memories, towards the album’s end, really misfires, its fake profundity and lack of a strong hook failing to keep the ear or mind engaged. Otherwise, this is a creditable follow-up from a band re-establishing and confirming their status as one of UK music’s more enjoyable and innovative bunch of eccentrics.