Friday, November 22, 2013

Up From the Underground : Michael Cullen "Love Transmitter"

This Australian singer song writer has teamed up with the Church's producer Tim Powles, to put together one of the more convincing New Wave revival albums of the year. It is moody just where it needs to be, and retains hooks the current crop of the post-punk resurgence, tends to forget. 

The album opener "Do You Believe" rolls in with the dark clouds. Cullen's vocals evoke Byran Ferry in his more "Love is the Drug" midrange. The fact the bass sits under the guitar and synths, make it less post- punk like the Cure and a more new-wave sound. His voice drops down into his more Nick Cave lower register on "Tidal Wave". There is a more sonic dissonance  to "All Used Up" that is more Gary Numan than Joy Division to me, though the taunt guitar line is trying to capture that kind of tension. 

More often than not the album is either post-punk and New Wave , rather goth. Though we hold the bar pretty high for goth around here, post-punk is more fitting way to describe what Cullen does as he lacks the blatant bat cave creepiness. The keyboards that coat the back frequently touch on melodies  not out of place on a post- Pornography Cure album, but  they add solemn ambiance rather than anything with a predilection towards Halloween. There is an Echo and the Bunnymen, laziness to the melody of  "Hey Sister" that drifts by. 

The guitar constricts around "Transmission"  creates a drone not unlike indie rock bands who pull from similar influences like Interpol and Arcade Fire. The lyrics to this song seem autobiographic in regards to the personal issues that inspired this darker dip into songwriting. This honesty is refreshing. The soul baring lyrics set this apart from younger bands who are angst ridden to keep up appearances, you can't fake hard living. I don't want my misery manufactured, but dished out in these cathartic doses.

 "Spill" finds Cullen falling back on the bass line with a baritone narrative, and going back into the Nick Cave mode. I like the lyric "You think you are different honey/ the world's full of girls like you" . This song has an almost blues like swagger to it. There's a woozy wavering to "Chinese Hammer" that makes me think of what it might sound like if Leonard Cohen wrote a song for a David Lynch soundtrack.  Though while I appreciate the ambiance here, I think this is the albums least focused song, on an album where the songs are otherwise pretty air tight. 

Some of the albums best guitar work appears on "Professional Entertainers" . An upbeat song with an indie rock vibe, rather than sonic tension that appears earlier on the albums. He lowers his voice back down into the straight ahead sardonic humor of "One is Still My Number". The later half of the album gets more upbeat, bringing to mind bands like Television. 

The album ends on a more morose tone, back in the more Roxy Music meets New Order vein, synths whispering in the back ground. I enjoy his more plaintive vocal tones, though appreciate the varied vocal colors on the album. The Nick Cave voice at times feels like he is playing more of a role, but not to the point of where he loses the albums identity, so in that respect he pulled it off rather admirably. If you an equal dose of 80's flavored pop hooks and new wave to you post-punk, with less emphasis on the punk than this is the album for you. I really enjoyed it is as it fit my mood perfectly today, so color me gray without an overdose of morose and file this under highly recommended.          


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