The Departure - Dirty Words
Bill Cummings 13/06/2005
Music, like everything in life, moves in cycles and so do the influences that drive the latest musical trends. So if in the 90's it was Britpop that ruled the roost (owing a deference to the 60's) and in the early naughties it was the so called NME "rock revolution" of The Datsuns and The Hives that was in fashion then now we are in the eye of the eighties revival. The Departure, then, are the latest stage in this zeitgeist: we've had funk/punk of Radio 4 and The Rapture, the darker Joy Division-by-way-of-The Cure dynamics of Interpol, The Stills et al, now we are in the middle of the Duran Duran synth pop leanings of the Killers and the Bravery.
But where do Northampton's The Departure fit in? Well they heavily reference the point when post punk became new wave, early U2 guitar shapes, thudding Cure/ Chameleons-esque bass rhythms and spiky angular guitars, stuttering anguished cockney vocals that owe debts to both Ian Curtis and Morrissey, but are mostly lacking in the quality, passion or intensity of either.
The Departure are frighteningly good at this new wave pastiche lark. For example, opener "Just like TV" with its dark dirty guitar line and David Jones' tight and terse cockney vocal performance is pulled off to a tee. Elsewhere highlights include "Only Human", a melancholic and piercing take on the Television back catalogue, and the standout moment "Be My Enemy" with its tub thumping jaw breaking post punk menace and massive chorus stolen right out of the Morrissey scrap book. Elsewhere though your left with the feeling that the Departure might be able to produce passable pastiche, but what defines The Departure? Eyeliner? A nice set of references? A painfully fashionable feeling for where the musical zeitgeist is? What is the Departure sound if it's not a concoction of their influences?
Well the answers probably lies on weaker moments like "Put your arms around me" which musically resembles much of the rest of the new wave tones of the album, its rather lazy lyrics don't fill the bill, but smack of a bitter teenage boy who's being dumped: "Put your arms around me and let's go out tonight/If this is not temptation your gonna kill my pride." Whilst recent single "Lump in my throat" with its limp-wristed vocal, awful lyrics ("I've got a bag with no airholes, I've got a chair with no seat") and repetitive post punk sound, kind of sums up why the Departure haven't quite made the transition from painfully hip young NME dudes to evolutionary 80's influenced soundscape makers the way contemporaries like, for example, Interpol have.
In patches this a good first attempt, The Departure have talent, they create a sound that is well crafted on the outside, but they are lacking in the depth and individuality to really make this debut anything other than mostly average. The honest truth is they are too painfully fashionable currently to be considered anything other than a haircut band, who can't connect with the listener on any emotional level, for example I doubt most of you will remember half the tracks here ten minutes after hearing them. This is mostly too much of a musical pastiche to be really engaging. The equivalent of watching an episode of I love the 80's enjoyable in part but ultimately unsatisfying it makes you crave for the real thing. Back to the drawing board with you please.
Now where's my copy of The Cure's greatest hits?