Album Reviews

Motorifik – Secret Things

(Modern Language) UK release date: 15 November 2010

Band names, while often proving a useful pre-listen clue as to the music that is about to be offered up, need to nevertheless be approached with caution. The dangers of reading too much into the name that a group of musicians choose to trade under include: Great Band, Awful Name syndrome; Terrible Band You Want To Love Because of Brilliance Of Their Name syndrome; and Totally Misleading Red Herring Band Name syndrome.

The latter seems to be the one affecting Motorifik. On their debut album one might expect a feast of Krautrock, Neu!Kraftwerk-influenced motorik beats, as per the punning name. Bemusingly, this isn’t what you actually get at all.

Instead, this is an album that mainly harks back to the early 1990s. It opens with the title track, possessed of a layered, tambourine-heavy percussion line such as those favoured by a host of Phil Spector-apeing shoegaze bands. The aptly-named Nostalge, meanwhile, takes the Britpop lodestar – The Beatles – and makes of it something closer to a lesser Oasis track than one might really want to be hearing at this stage in the new century.

The better points on the album aim for, and more-or-less achieve, the kind of breezy, poppy, harmony-drenched melodies of a band like The Boo Radleys – wide-eyed, sunshiney and gentle. These include Secret Things, Strange Weather and Sleep Forever (an accidentally Oasis-alike track title?). Unfortunately the gentleness of their sound turns quickly to dullness, on tracks not gifted with an urgency by means of a melodic or rhythmic hook. Ghosts, A Vision and Nostalge suffer in this way, passing by simply as so much album filler.

More or less in the album’s centre, and standing apart from its surroundings, is the track Nameless Colour. Stripped of the layering, harmonics and shimmer, this is sparser, sparer music altogether: a slow acoustic rumination on nature, with the wind “shaking the shadow of the trees”. Closer in feel to Bon Iver than anything else, this is a curio that nevertheless adds a sense of depth and texture to an album that is otherwise rather too one-pitch.

A whiff, perhaps, of Krautrock can be found in the album’s other stand-out track Strange Weather, which starts with a pleasing electronic dissonance, before once again pitching up with the wide-eyed, wonder-struck schtick. It is possessing of one of the best, most compelling melodies, and a hint of cowbell, making it pleasingly danceable and slightly euphoric. This is, after all, a band that take take their 1990s influence to such extremes that they choose, in 2010, to rhyme “conquer me” with “ecstacy” (The Cause).

It is difficult, then, to understand who this album might best appeal to. Those harking back to the early 1990s, or indeed those too young to have experienced it first-hand would probably be better advised to go back to the source material. Secret Things, admittedly charming in places, is ultimately too derivative to provide much sustained satisfaction.

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Motorifik – Secret Things