Album Reviews

Department of Eagles – The Cold Nose

(Melodic) UK release date: 28 November 2005


A mixed old musical bag and no mistake, with orchestral oddities packed with DJ Shadow-esque shonky samples and loops to avant-folk, Gershwin, jazz and electronica. Too cool for the playground ‘idiotronica’ of Kid Carpet, but not too snooty to take a gleeful fall every now and again. Like fellow plunder-popsters The Avalanches, Beta Band or even Beck in their breadth and depth of their influences, this is a dazzling, enervating trip to excite the senses, tickle the eardrums and put on repeat play.

Department Of Eagles are New York youngsters Daniel Rossen (vocals and guitars) and Fred Nicolaus (beats and samples). Produced by Jeff Saltzman (The Killers‘ Hot Fuss) it keeps a refreshingly homemade feel which could have so easily been bludgeoned into more chart-friendly fodder.

Most of the ethos of creating the tunes here were borne out of the desire to create something (in their own words) ‘funny and weird’. This could easily trip over into the much-loathed ‘wacky’ territory. Thankfully they never do. Both parties bring something of themselves to the brew with more proper songs rubbing up against some intriguing sonic noodle to the benefit of both.

Whether it’s the thrashy gibberish trash of Romo-Goth, that has more ideas than any member of Radiohead and a whole lot more fun, or the idiot-savant interior d�cor boasting hip-hop of Forty Dollar Rug (‘I’m not a thug, have a butcher’s at me rug’. From the same gene pool is swingingly demented The Horse You Ride that undergoes a personality crisis halfway through from indie breakbeat shuffle to looping freak out before remembering where it lives.

More traditional schools of songwriting appear in Sailing by Night a charming acoustic meander through kazoo, beatbox that spirals into a crazed finale of samples without losing its sense of tune. In a similar vein to these more ‘complete’ offerings come The Piano in the Bathtub, about the photographer Cindy Sherman and Ghost in Summer Clothes is a clip-clopping sub-cowboy stroll off into the sunset.

Personal favourite is the demented Noam Chomsky Spring Break 2002, which was based on a spring break trip the duo took to Boston where they tried to break into Noam Chomsky’s office at MIT. It didn’t work. This breakbeat beauty wriggles with ideas from the piano loop underpinning the whole thing to the fractured vocals skittering about like a demented moth banging its head on a microphone.

Origin of Love sums up the schizo-musical influences at play better than most in it’s drunken veering from smoky jazz piano, sampled breakbeat, backward masking, amateur guitar strums, to phased beatbox as played by drunken chimps.

So the Department’s Cold Nose sure is a healthy pup, enthused by the spirit of fun, of the love of creation rather than the desire to perfect and unsullied by outside opinion or expectation. It is a thing to treasure and a band to watch.


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More on Department Of Eagles
Department Of Eagles – Archive 2003-2006
Department Of Eagles – In Ear Park
Department of Eagles – The Cold Nose