Remember the New Boring? The expression was coined a couple of years ago to describe the continuing and in many cases baffling popularity of Mumford And Sons, The Great British Bakeoff, Downton Abbey, “shabby chic” furniture, Cath Kidston homewares, blandly handsome Canadian men called Ryan (Gosling, Reynolds), and everything else that is slightly pleasant but soul-destroyingly unexciting about the world today. This is a world where Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeroes are considered edgy and interesting. The idea is that in these straitened times everyone’s retreating from anything hard-edged and adrenal, into a soft, cosy beige cocoon where nothing interesting will ever happen but at least that means nothing bad will ever happen, either.
It appears the New Boring has leapfrogged the English Channel and started spreading its spores of Glade plug-in scented tedium around mainland Europe. Girls In Hawaii are neither female nor Hawaiian – the record would almost definitely be more interesting if they were – consisting as they do of six sensitive Belgian blokes who’d look out of place at a luau-themed fancy dress party, let alone Waikiki beach. (They’d be the pasty ones in the comically long board shorts.) Everest is their third album, the first since the death of drummer Denis Wielemans in a car accident in 2010. With Wielemans’ tragic death in mind, you can sort of understand why Everest is so subdued – but that doesn’t fully excuse its lack of interest.
Those seeking music to excite, to elate, to depress, to energise, to offend, to push the boundaries, should look elsewhere: these are not the droids you’re looking for. The feeling Everest provokes is more a sort of mildly positive indifference, the attitude you have towards the pine air freshener hanging from your rear view mirror. You wouldn’t particularly mind if it wasn’t there, and you won’t notice when one day it falls off. Girls In Hawaii are Belgium’s take on middle class, middle of the road indie mope rock: a less cerebral Radiohead, a less edgy Temper Trap. They’re better than Keane, but that’s somewhat akin to saying Countdown is better telly than Bargain Hunt.
It’s not a bad record: when the band are going for the Big Euphoric Sound so beloved by the people make the video montages at the end of Match Of The Day, they execute it pretty well. We Are The Living has the pounding bass, hysterically swirling synths and general overblown mournfulness of something like Maps; Switzerland has a snappy energy about it, building to a Big Euphoric Climax that chucks in everything from the Big Euphoric Climax Textbook – grinding guitars, swelling strings, all of that. Penultimate track Rorschach is the best on the record, all brooding synths and smouldering layered vocal harmonies; you could imagine The Big Pink or White Lies putting it out in 2009 and everyone going nuts for it.
Elsewhere, things are more toned-down and involve some pretty brazen nicking from other bands’ tunes. Changes Will Be Lost borrows from Grace’s Not Over Yet; Head On has something of Keane’s Everybody’s Changing about it. Radiohead’s influence rears its head throughout, but especially so in Mallory’s Heights and final track Wars – minus the weirdy experimental bits that stop Radiohead from being Coldplay. No pigs in cages or paranoid androids for Girls In Hawaii. (If you are looking for droids, Radiohead’s come highly recommended.)
If you’re wanting something to whack on in the background while you’re waiting for your Jamie Oliver-recipe lasagne to come out of the oven so you can eat it in front of your Mad Men box set, Everest is probably exactly what you’re after. Go forth and bore.