Onstage during a Hollywood Bowl concert last year, M83’s Anthony Gonzalez talked about how the veteran L.A. dream-pop band Medicine had influenced his music. Then he brought out Medicine’s leader Brad Laner to sing with him on M83’s “Splendor”—which makes sense, seeing as how Laner guests on the 2011 studio version of the song. The gesture was a small one in the grand scheme of things—it’s a safe bet few in the audience recognized the name—but it’s also indicative of Medicine’s less than enviable position over the years: a band loved, respected, and imitated by musicians, but minimally acknowledged beyond that. Like many groups in existence during the alt-rock free-for-all of the ’90s, Medicine had its shot at fame; signed to Rick Rubin’s American Recordings, they appeared on the chart-topping soundtrack for The Crow (and in the movie itself, along with Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser). When that lottery ticket didn’t pan out, the band broke up in the ’90s, then reformed for their 2013 comeback album To The Happy Few. But where To The Happy Few feasted on Medicine’s legacy with a desperate yet stately elation, the band’s new full-length, Home Everywhere, just sounds desperate.
Home Everywhere is a mess. It isn’t always a bad mess, but far too often, it is. Where To The Happy Few exercised impeccable taste and restraint in its attempt to probe every overblown trope of shoegaze and space-pop, Home Everywhere piles them on. And on and on and on. The panning from left to right is juddering, spasmodic, panicky. Worse, it works against the melodic euphoria Laner excels at; a little deconstruction goes a long way, and Laner’s lost the plot. Songs like “The Reclaimed Girl” and “Move Along – Down The Road” aren’t psychedelic, as that would imply at least the possibility of bliss. Instead, Laner pumps so many samples, filters, noisemakers, and modulators into the mix, the band’s own instrumental source material is treated like something that should be anxiously covered up.
Of course, it shouldn’t; there are great tunes poking out of the tangle, or at least great fragments of tunes. Too many of them in rapid succession, actually, or all at once. Laner’s longtime cohort Elizabeth Thompson twines her ethereal voice wonderfully around his on “Don’t Be Slow”; still, it’s not enough of a lifeline to cling to as the music boils and manically pans around them. Making music that sounds like an orchestra of malfunctioning transistor radios at once is a noble pursuit, and one that My Bloody Valentine consummated triumphantly; MBV have always been one of Medicine’s biggest inspirations, and that hasn’t changed on Home Everywhere. But where MBV—and Medicine, at their best—nervily harness those smears and blurs, “Turning” renders that lovely paradox of abrasive dreaminess into stabs of spectroscopic strobe lights, garbage-disposal bass, and self-sampling to the point of bleary-eyed myopia. It doesn’t come off as experimental, any more than it would to dump every chemical on the lab floor to see what happens.
When Home Everywhere takes a deep breath, though, it’s incredible. “Cold Life” is spacious, dynamic, and eerily backmasked, or at least backmasking is the aural illusion that Laner is trying and winning at evoking. It’s a gentle queasiness, and it’s made all the more absorbing by Laner’s flowing, melancholy vocals, even though he sounds like he’s brazenly mimicking Elliott Smith for some reason. Similarly, “They Will Not Die” and “It’s All About You” reign in the album’s sensory overload, daubing it sparingly from time to time for maximum impact. At over 11 minutes, the album’s cosmic-jam title track doesn’t justify its sprawl; it’s over about halfway through, but someone forget to tell the band that. At this point in Medicine’s existence, they’ve earned the right to get as excessive as they want—and in a way, it’s thrilling to see a group that’s been around so long continue to go for broke with rapturous self-indulgence. Home Everywhere has every element needed to make a great Medicine album, only they’re deployed in gangling spasms and obsessive over-processing. If only they’d edited themselves a little more—or a little less.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1rPZRKP