By Carl Cullinane
***When is an album not an album? When it’s an agglomeration of an EP and some bonus tracks is certainly one answer, and the one which Montreal act Land of Talk offer in the form of Applause Cheer Boo Hiss. The EP was released in 2006 to much acclaim, and 3 new tracks have been added to the European release to bring it up to album length. Structurally, this does the record no favours, but it’s a strong collection of songs nonetheless.The album kicks off with the rollicking ‘Speak to Me Bones’, a propulsive crunchy riff allied to an aggressive melodic vocal. This combination is very much Land of Talk’s stock in trade. Female indie vocalists are ten a penny these days, but Lizzie Powell offers more rasp than honey. She is without doubt the band’s most potent weapon, settling comfortably in the Cat Power/ PJ Harvey tradition, if possibly too comfortably. There are moments here when Powell sounds more like Cat Power than Power herself.In second track ‘Sea Foam’ even the backing track sounds like You Are Free-era Cat Power. Derivative, yes, but it is done with enough brio to deflect such criticisms. ‘Summer Special’ rounds off a strong opening trio of songs, offering once again a striking vocal melody and no shortage of humour, as Powell looks down her nose at her surroundings: “Look at those girls/ So young, so young/ Still piss their pants.” Unfortunately, as the record goes on, the lack of variety starts to pall. The guitars keep crunching and Powell keeps howling. Of the extra tracks, while ‘Young Bridge’ offers a driving riff and ‘Dark Nature Places’ is pleasingly bittersweet, little new is brought to the table.
Applause Cheer Boo Hiss isn’t going to set the world alight, but it shows enough promise to indicate that Land of Talk have something to offer. They have an gift for melody and a freshness that has been lacking from much recent British indie rock.
By Carl Cullinane