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Klaxons Surfing the Void Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Against the odds, it might be time to sit up and pay Klaxons some respect.

Andy Fyfe 2010

Who are these people, and in which stinking Shoreditch alley have they dumped the soiled, miaow-riddled body of new rave? Three years ago Klaxons were painted as the spurious genre’s idiot storm troopers by a music media who made the whole thing up anyway before ditching the band to free up valuable column inches for the altogether more pressing business of reporting Pete Doherty’s drug farts. Meanwhile, the trio’s nods to 90s rave culture – some bright hoodies and squelchy synths – instantaneously earned them the ire of ‘serious’ critics who hoped the whole dreadful racket would simply do the decent thing and fall on its own glowstick.

Luckily for Jamie Reynolds, James Righton and Simon Taylor-Davis, they were able to laugh the entire caper off as a private joke that got out of hand, and if their 2007 debut album Myths of the Near Future has worn about as well as the reedy earliest efforts of, say, Depeche Mode and The Prodigy, then Surfing the Void finds them operating nearer those two bands’ high water marks: Violator and The Fat of the Land.

The catalyst for this miraculous turnaround appears to be the unlikely figure of producer Ross Robinson, better known for sprinkling his angle grinder’s fairy dust on albums by Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot. Earlier sessions with Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford resulted in Polydor supposedly rejecting the first version of the album, but Robinson is an inspired choice, his way with skull-crushing density ‘roiding up Klaxons’ sound like a muscle mary. There’s no smoke without fire, however, and the band still needed to come up with the framework on which Robinson could hang his sonic black holes.

Don’t despair space cadets: it’s not as if Klaxons have ditched the sort of lyrical nonsense that had Reynolds asking us to “flank my foghorn” on Gravity’s Rainbow. Oh no. As Extra Astronomical, Cypherspeed and the title-track all suggest, the same sort of eccentricity that sees Matt Bellamy pegged as a loveable boffin is well intact, but it’s the sheer depth of the sound that drags you in like ultimate gravity. Also intact is their underlying pop instinct, common to every band Robinson works with, but he never gets in the way of the basic thrills on stadium-sized single Echoes or the rushing Flashover.

It may stick in the craw of anyone who previously dismissed Klaxons as callow stooges in a record company marketing plan, but against the odds it might be time to sit up and pay them some respect.

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