Album Reviews

Gotye – Like Drawing Blood

(Lucky Number) UK release date: 18 August 2008

Remember the kids cartoon Hong Kong Phooey? Whereby the unassuming janitor transformed into a ninja kung fu master. And he was a dog… Well, taking a similarly alter-ego approach to things Wouter de Backer is by day the mild-mannered librarian, but when night falls he unleashes his inner songwriter-superhero. Except he keeps his pants inside his trousers. I’m guessing. And he’s not a dog.

Taking the far more seductive moniker Goyte (pronounced Gaultier – like Jean Paul) he manages to exude some life from the tired carcass of Beck-wannabes who plunder like musical magpies but too few have the glue of tunes to hold the plumage together, and end up sounding like a skeleton in a biscuit tin – not bad once in a while, but the joke wears thin.

This year has already thrown up the equally intriguing Yoav and his ghostly acoustics to prove to those interested that there is life beyond James Blunt and the wet associations of lovelorn blokes weeping into guitar soundholes. Another reference point would be the easy-going sample style of The Avalanches weaving them effortlessly into the mix. This is after all a strange and heady brew.

The Only Way is ushered in by the brief atmosphere builder title track to take a low-slung bass note shimmy through atmospheric territory that borders Ed Harcourt‘s dark muse with an eastern charm and a plaintive heartugger that still has a spring in its style.

The single Heart’s A Mess built around a Harry Belafonte loop to create a strings and organ twilight stroll in territory last occupied by a less-bleak Massive Attack. Through the subtle mixing of harmonics, film noir tension and Goyte’s heartfelt pleas that, “your heart’s a mess… but I’m desperate to connect,” it raises the sum of parts into another realm of rich, rewarding music demanding repeated listening.

Coming Back is struts in on a militaristic tango rhythm with the drama of a Bond-film. Thanks For Your Time cuts and splices all the consumer telesales clich�s we are assaulted with as we wait on the end of the phone to be connected. Instead of a trite exercise in banality Goyte manages to build a rich soundbed of multi-voiced frustrations taken out of context summed up by the repeated sample of “don’t ask me, I just work here man”.

Shifting styles like a musical version of ADHD Goyte moves to the Motown style drumfest of other single Learnalilgivinanlovin and then to the dubby Puzzle With A Piece Missing that could be a lost Unkle b-side of clipped beauty with barely catching his breath.

Things continue to be dubbed up in the zapped and flapped instrumental A Distinctive Sound hat rolls drunkenly around a late night cab in Jamaica on its solid underbelly with odd mariachi and Manga sting samples lurching in through the window.

Seven Hours With A Backseat Driver is a grunged up Jeff Buckley-esque moody growler contrasted by the gentler more reflective Night Drive that brings things to a close with a nod to the tribal harmonies of Crowded House. The croaking Worn Out Blues fades things to black and leaves you eager to press replay to begin the whole thing over again.

The danger of taking on too many styles and moods can be the schoolboy error of trying too hard and failing too fast. Goyte’s twilight activities from his librarianship were hours well spent for based on this debut he could wear his pants outside his trousers quite comfortably – superhero status deserved.

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Gotye – Like Drawing Blood