APART FROM THE name, which reminds me of some embarrassing pub rock band from the ‘70s, the Splashh debut just has too many issues to give me cause for, uh… comfort.
This ‘sort of’ NZ band based in Britain (well, singer/guitarist Sasha Carlson and drummer Jacob Moore, who is formerly of The Checks, are both expatriate Kiwis) comes on like a wannabe NME band of the week, which gives them a sense of the throwaway.
Their 10-song debut does what hundreds of ‘alternative’ rock bands have done before them, and bathes everything in swathes of echo, so that everything becomes an amorphous blur, and the music loses its dynamic and punch. This no-res sound can make for a haunting, atmospheric effect if it’s used sparingly and/or cleverly by sound engineers who know what they’re doing, but here it just makes everything annoyingly hard to hear.
I’d love to hear them live if their echo machines failed. Would they just be another pub-rock band with ‘new wave’ pretensions?
There is of course a load of great music out there that sounds like shit on an expensive hi-fi, and that’s one of the intrinsic problems in striving for sonic excellence. In the case of Splashh, their aesthetic is leeched through too-cool-for-school bands like the Velvet Underground and The Jesus & Mary Chain, but they’re not really into noise, as such.
In fact, it’s the songs, Carlson’s high-pitched Phil Judd-type vocal expression, and the really rather pop-oriented melodies that define them, while the sound – New Order bass-lines, cartwheeling synths and of course those ill-defined, echoey, far-away guitars – are the clouds that obscure them.
I suspect that if I was to hear Comfort on a shitty boombox it might come out just right, and under those circumstances it might be possible to appreciate the songs and find depths to them that have eluded me thus far.
But because I’m reviewing this for an organ that respects the integrity of sound, I’m assessing it as an emission from my rather hi-res home stereo – and it wasn’t a pretty sonic picture! It’s not that the group make a wall of noise; it’s as though there is a wall, and they’re on the other side of it. GARY STEEL
Music = 3/5
Sound = 2/5