By Natalie Salvo
thenewno2’s debut album sounded more like Beck than the output of Beatle progeny. The comparison to the Fab Four was inevitable as the project is the brainchild of Dhani Harrison (son of George Harrison). And while Dhani looks and sounds like his famous father, the music actually falls on the opposite end of the musical spectrum. Again, Harrison has teamed up with his friend and famed engineer, Paul Hicks (son of The Hollies’ Tony Hicks) and it’s clear the two share their tastes in modern music.
Their sophomore effort, thefearofmissingout is generation Y to a tee. The concept is a contemporary problem used to describe an individual’s restlessness at wanting to do it all (no doubt a product of seeing their friends on Instagram and Facebook at exotic locations and doing all sorts of exciting things). It means you don’t want to miss a thing, whether it’s going to the next party or meeting the next guy or gal and this often manifests itself as an awful lot of indecision.
This scatterbrain feeling has made its way into the album’s hyper musical sounds. The group fuse together lots of different genres including: alt-rock, electro, hip-hop, indie, psychedelia, folk and even reggae. The result is a record that is very similar to Radiohead’s Kid A in that it’s a creative, sprawling and experimental affair. The lyrics are also dark just like those by the famous Oxford quintet. But the biggest pitfall here is that there isn’t a distinct single in the mix. Instead a mysterious, meandering quality dominates, where the soundscape can get as avant-guard as Yoko Ono’s output and the music flits between syncopated drums, dizzying electronic bleeps, buzzing blops and all sorts of strange layers. It’s weird to say the least.
“Station” cements the madness of the album in the first five minutes. There is some skipping rhythms at the start, which would make some people check to see if their CDs weren’t faulty (that is, if they weren’t all listening to MP3s). Then off it goes, segueing into drums that clang with a heavy ferocity and the keys, which are as fuzzy as a woodland animal. The lyrics feature a sampled YouTube video, one that had gone viral where an American lady had asked her pet, “Who’s the best cat in the United States?” But in thenewno2’s hands they made her sound like some crazy alien about to burst into action.
There is some industrial noise on “Wide Awake” but the sharper, dub-like edges have been ironed out by the addition of some xylophones. This is easily one of the album’s strengths- mashing light and dark elements into music and lyrics, so the mood can oscillate between the two extremes and prevent things from becoming too bogged down in a particular style or feeling. Another case in point is the soaring rock of “I Won’t Go On” as the verses here are flavoured by a sound that could be by the Happy Mondays.
Harrison actually sounds rather androgynous on “Hanging On”. In fact, you could probably say he sounds a lot like Brian Molko from Placebo here, but this could also be the result of the music sharing a few things in common with the alt-rock group. It’s a very different voice from “The Number” where he resembles his old man while singing with Fields’ Thorunn Antonia. But then, this one plays like it came via one of George’s guitars anyway, thanks to its melodic pop sound.
Another guest on the record is Harrison’s band mate from Fistful of Mercy, Ben Harper on “Staring out to Sea”. “thewaitaround” meanwhile, includes RZA from Wu-Tang Clan and The Black Knights. The latter song is a hip-hop one and will probably not be favoured by all fans as it seems the most disparate and incongruous to the other tracks.
thefearofmissingout is an earnest set of experimental rock, full of complex arrangements and soundscapes. At best is it creative and arty while at its worst it tries too hard to do too much and borders on being a disorganised mess. thenewno2 have made an anxious, synth-driven record that is serious in offering dizzy collages of noise that are a million miles away from both theirs and your old man’s music. But even though they’ve managed to distil a tonne of influences into a varied record of sights and sounds, their best is probably still yet to come.
By Natalie Salvo