THE APPLES IN STEREO: VELOCITY OF SOUND (2002)
1) Please; 2) Rainfall; 3) That's Something I Do; 4) Do You Understand; 5) Where We Meet; 6) Yore Days; 7) Better Days; 8) I Want; 9) Mystery; 10) Baroque; 11*) She's Telling Lies.
Uh-oh. Things do not bode well here. All of a sudden, Schneider has decided to dropkick psychedelia in favour of lots and lots of fat distorted guitars. Perhaps he just secretly envied the success of the Strokes, but the trouble is, with his rose-coloured vision of the world, the final result of toughening up his sound could only have sounded like Weezer. And, what do you know — it does sound like Weezer. And there is no good reason to completely dismiss Weezer, but who needs two Weezers when we could have one Weezer and one Apples In Stereo instead?
The pain really kicks in when it starts dawning on you that some of these songs are well-written pop numbers, and that in terms of melodies and hooks they are easily on the level of World Inside The Moone. 'Baroque', for instance, is a tenderly gorgeous Brit-pop anthem that should be encapsulated and flung backwards in time to be recorded by the Kinks circa 1966-67. How on Earth did they decide that, to reach perfection, it needed to be drenched in a dirty, deafening wall of garage-rock sound? Did they think it gave them extra «artistic credibility», or some other crap like that? Mind you, we are actually talking here about a band that, eight years before, surprised the world by renouncing heavy guitar arrangements as an obligatory way of acquiring intellectual respect. Now, out of the blue, they are bringing them back for seemingly no other purpose than to «fit in», with whom or what — I'm not exactly sure.
As on almost every Apples album, lucky findings are heavily interspersed here with passable filler: Sidney's 'Rainfall' is a charming, romantic, fast-moving pop rocker for which they invented a catchy guitar line, while 'Where We Meet' is another uninspired, languid attempt at imitating the spirit of Lennon's 'Rain', but both are given the exact same crackling, grumbling coat, and it is technically easier to just dismiss both before giving them each a fair chance.
Five or six listens into the record, I can safely say that I also like 'Better Days' (that galloping pace is one of the best things to come out of 1960s Britain, and the more songs are done like that, the better) and the fun chorus to 'That's Something I Do', where Schneider tells us that "your friends hate my guts... 'cause I don't have a pedigree" — nice acting, sir, but you don't really fool us, your pedigree is better than most — and then, perhaps, something else might come up once I declog my ears from all the sludge. But for the moment, despite individual hooks, the album deserves a strict thumbs down. If, for some reason, you get extra kicks looking at an old Flemish masterpiece after it's been heavily sprinkled with sulfuric acid — for instance, under the pretext that it leaves more space for imagination — then Velocity Of Sound is for you. Me, I'd rather wait until they eventually release the demo versions.
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