When electronic music first appeared about 35 years ago, sceptics predicted that its inherently artificial nature would stop it from ever being sincere or soulful. I think it’s fair to say they’ve been proved resoundingly wrong, but you can understand where they were coming from when you listen to Close to Glass.
The title is more than just a title here – it’s a pretty good description of what it actually sounds like. The electronic elements on the songs are almost always cold, clean and mechanical. The laissez-faire vocals on many of the tracks only increase this lack of sentiment, and it’s hard to really connect with anything here.
A lot of the songs aren’t particularly catchy either, with some very unremarkable synth work to be found. Having said that, there are some notable ex- ceptions on the album, which call into question whether The Notwist’s foray into electronica was a good idea. On the most straightforward indie rock track ‘Kong’ they excel, giving us a brilliant example of warm, sunny and sophisticated songwriting, even giving a subtle nod to The Beta Band’s track ‘Dry the Rain’.
The other few rock pieces, ‘7 Hour Drive’ and ‘Steppin’ In’, are again pretty strong, one noisy and one acoustic, and I can’t help thinking that if they’d have stayed more conventional the band would’ve been putting out a better album.
Experimenting is fine, and the easiest way for a rock band to do that is to start adding more electronic into the mix. But it’s by no means a guarantee that your music will get better, and on Close to Glass it feels too forced to be listenable. It’s no coincidence that on the best tracks the album has everyone sounding more relaxed, as if playing more conventional music is what comes naturally to them. They’re good songwriters, with a good ear for a hook, and I’d love to see them stick to that more.
I really think The Notwist haven’t done themselves justice with Close to Glass, which is a real shame. I will however be continuing to play ‘Kong’ on repeat for a while longer, so it’s not all bad I suppose.