First, let’s look at the album’s cover art. Yes, you’ll have to rectify that initial impression: our character appears to have emerged from a rectum. Give it time. Second interpretation: a clay-like shell appears to be decaying, revealing the flesh and blood underneath. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what happens on this record.
After a sort-of good debut—genred somewhere near “world folk”—Yeasayer’s sophomore record is a placeless shell over their organic past. The title, “Odd Blood,” tries to deceive us into trusting these musical shifts as something compellingly internal, personal. Another false introduction. And the last is first track, “The Children,” which is abrasively anti-humane, and perhaps the strangest thing you’ll ever hear. Rolling Stone has called the track “post-apocalyptic.” That’s close to the right category, maybe an era too early—it sounds mutated, post-human.
And then everything goes emotional and “happy,” even if it remains end-of-the-world chaotic and disorganized.
It supposes that its audio spectrum makes it bright. But look at the cover art and you’re reminded that caked-on colors everywhere makes for a very dull image. Nearly every song is muddied with a range of incompatible sounds—springy cartoon sounds, Eastern percussion, 80’s sentimentalism and discothèque groove. It’s all very lively in a short sort of way. The trouble is that there’s no negative color, there’s no movement or climax, there’s nowhere to grow.
And growth is a key word here. It’s obvious they’re imitating a growing strand of musicians that try to capture innocent, child-like optimism. But they’re not intelligent in the way they do it. A line like “stick up for your self, son / never mind what anybody else does” is not an admirable simplicity. I’m not a lyrically-minded critic, but I hope these many clichés are something very different from their pumping, bloody hearts. “Odd” is no excuse for creative expression.
I can’t fight the impression that I get that this is all pretty fake. They’re following trends, part of the same saucy, child-like energy as Passion Pit or Animal Collective. Unfortunately, they better resemble the careless and overrated MGMT. And, also unfortunately, they’ll also receive attention from washed-up critics.
Maybe it’s hard to detect the line between good and bad “experimentation.” But I think it’s clear enough—there must be authenticity and warm-bloodedness. “Odd Blood” is a 40-minute ballyhoo of spirited musical stupidity. It reminds me of “prayer language”—intense, don’t feel like anything was said in the ten minutes it took. Like religion, whitewashing is the intolerable crime within the worlds of weird music.