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Shark

Shark

by Max Barashenkov / 20.08.2010

At the album launch, the Plastics are introduced with something along the lines of: “And here are the Plastics, their new album was produced by Gordon Raphael, you know, the guy who produced the Strokes!” Alarm bells go off – oh shit, guys, if this is the horse you are riding then this is going to be a sad experience… but then the band takes the stage and turns my long-standing perception of them being dry live inside out.

The show is great, plain and simple. Everything from the décor, to the lights, to the video mixing of the backdrops, to the performance itself – it is all on the highest level, if you squint a little you could swear you are watching a good international act. The Plastics play with a sense of sheer joy of being on stage, presenting new material to the already substantial fan base. Pascal has matured, from the Hoax days, into a charismatic frontman, a master of the coy-grin-eyes-through-the-heart routine. The rest of the band pull their weight equally well – carrying the songs the crowd has never heard before with gusto. The crowd overcoming their initial confusion at the darker, slower nature of the material. Right there and then I’m ready to hail these guys as definite leaders of the indie-pop scene, a head above bullshit favourites like New Holland, who essentially play the same sound. Then I get the record and grind my teeth – ah damn, they fucked up another one.

It is hard, when a big name producer is involved with a young, small band, to not be hyper-aware of his presence, to not look for it, especially when the band themselves fly that flag high and proud. We can never really know how the recording process went, which ideas were his, which were theirs, but it isn’t a far stretch to imagine (and the objective-bent fiends will piss boiling water at this) the following conversation:

Gordon: Hey, young South African band, your country is so hip right now, I’ll make this sell.

Plastics: Yes, mister famous producer, whatever you say.

Gordon: Let’s make you sound like the post-acid era Beatles here, let’s put some annoying pop backing vocals there…

Plastics: Oooh, that sounds so great, will we big overseas?

Gordon: With me, baby, you will, you will.

This is not to slate the songwriting ability of the band themselves, but I can’t imagine them being able to resist the temptation of going along with whatever Mr. Raphael offered. The result is a good record that suffers badly from over-production. Why the blanket distortion of Pascal’s voice? He is best when his vocals are clean, not when he sounds like every second fool with a blocked nose on the British airwaves. Why can you smell the ‘hit’ tracks from a mile away? Both “Jukebox” and “Caves” are designed for radio success, but are actually the weakest tracks on the album. One thing is having a Beatle-esque influence, quite different is shamelessly recycling their sound. “Caves”, in itself, is not a bad track, but what are those things in the chorus – auto-tuned vocals or gay high-pitched backings? Another major let down are the lyrics – the record is crammed with every cliché possible, tired images, infantile observations. It simply does not do justice to the mature arrangements and songwriting choices.

The best tracks are without doubt “Unusable Block” and “By Hook Or By Crook”, on them the new brooding Plastics sound works flawlessly with some of the catchiest choruses ever, something the band does extremely well on all songs – the sense of blissful melancholy is over-powering and engrossing. The record is peppered by moments of brilliance, when the producer and the band seem to come together, from the cheerful cynicism and the laid-back lyrics of “Midnight Passion” (one of the few tracks that you can actually ‘dance around all fucking delirious’ to) to “Stereo Kids”, a song perfect for walking around the city in the mornings, grinning at the passer-bys, sunk deep into the simple joy of being young (and here, unlike “Caves”, the pop-backings work). Sadly, Shark, also has its share of bland fillers, which border on elevator music: “Caroline” is an over-licked love song that leaves all stones unturned, “Late Night Scene” is just one continuous build-up without the joy of climax, “Banks of the Breede” is a peculiar experiment in irony that, in my opinion, fails miserably – ‘what the fuck is the radio’ they sing, but that is exactly where their eyes are firmly set.

My prediction of the Plastics’ album being number one locally and not going further than the bargain bins overseas is both coming true and being proved wrong – they are flooding 5FM already and, I hear, getting huge amongst the Vikings. Shark must be the album that Thor smokes cigarettes and gets depressed to. Good form.

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RESPONSES (26)
  1. No says:

    Mahala, don’t you feel aasvaal?;

    you mos think you read like this:

    http://streetbonersandtvcarnage.com/blog/dear-street-carnage-gawker-is-for-cunts/#more-23168

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  2. Max says:

    apologies for the incomprehensible sentence:
    “The rest of the band pull their weight equally well – carrying the songs the crowd has never heard before with gusto. The crowd overcoming their initial confusion at the darker, slower nature of the material.”

    I blame my editor 🙂

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  3. Anonz says:

    Max is just jealous because he got thrown out of his band, who were crap. I mean, an irony band that fails? That’s actually hard to fuck up.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Ah, the plastics.
    Riding the anti rock wave while clinging desperately to every underground fad and trend that floats by like this will be the bouyant turd to save them.
    They’d pulled all the stops on this one, havent they? And by that I mean, sent an email and secured a fancy producer (this is beyond SA indie scene budget, someones daddy must have flown mr raphael in for a holiday in CT I’m sure?) and now raise their fists and demand recognition.
    it’s a pitty to note that it appears that with all the opportunity the internet and big money can get you, they chose not to take advantage and make something new, fresh exciting, south african twanged and worthwhile, but resorted to derivatives of whats worked for other people before them. again. Its, again, not a matter of ‘Hey world, look what SA can do! You’ve been missing out!’ but more of, ‘Hey world, we’ve been watching you do that thing and look, we can emmulate you too! you were expecting something different? from africa? lolz’
    Everything from the current visual ‘shark’ trend thats cropping up in every new band name of hipster tattoo, to the rehashed and easy listening (and creating) dowaahs of indie rock.

    it seems they got so excited about the producer they got on board that they instantly equated this with success and forgot to write an album.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    an irony band that fails is brilliant.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    i’m stiil a huge fan. but dear max you sure know how to use a pen. another one well done. you got more balls than the useless majorities, yet i still dig these guys, from kiss the plastics up untill now. to each his own

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Monkey simulation. How apt. Love you. bye. bye. now.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Man o man, it must really must suck to write music now a days with guys like this, sure you filter out the shit. But really, South African audiences are the most difficult to please.

    I think we need better music reviewers.

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  9. Matt says:

    I haven’t heard the entire album, so I cant say If your judgment is correct, Max. Although I quite like the backing vocals in Caves. To each his own indeed.
    That fake conversation you made up between the Plastics and G.R. though, is possibly the stupidest piece of writing I’ve had to push my eyes through. When you decide which parts of your review are going to be negative for maximum public reaction, make sure its a tad cleverer next time. Your recipe works though, but fuck, 5 lines of writing and your whole article loses the wind in its sails for me. You almost had me convinced this time Max. Kapow.

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  10. Max says:

    @Matt, does it hurt? pissing, that is?

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  11. Kitty says:

    Max, you are a moron, the Plastics rock!

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  12. onetwoanother says:

    I’d have to agree – the record sucks, but the band is great live. crappy writing though

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  13. jenny says:

    thanks for doing an honest review and not sucking up 2 the plastics like most journo’s and magazines have. They might be tight but its still just formula-rock.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Max sucks more dick than a hooker on a busy day

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  15. Matt says:

    @Max. You tell me.

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  16. Max says:

    I LOVE THE PLASTICS!!!!!!!

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  17. Jef says:

    Max, I think you write quite adequately for second language english. 🙂

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  18. Max says:

    @Jeff, thanks man 🙂
    by the way – the ‘Max’ above loving the plastics isn’t me

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  19. Brett says:

    I thought it was Monkey Stimulation. That was sexier than Simulation. Someone please tell me it isn’t so?

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  20. BandGeek says:

    The Album itself is really good! these guys are going far in my opinion btw max were u in the room when Gordon Raphael told the band he was gonna make them stars?

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  21. Anonymous says:

    “Shark must be the album that Thor smokes cigarettes and gets depressed to” Hahahahahahahahaha Brilliant!

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  22. Max says:

    @BandGeek, my dear friend, did you not read the part where it says, black on white, that the following conversation is imagined? if you didn’t, let me repeat it – it is an imagined conversation.

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  23. K says:

    I may be wrong but i heard that the whole album was recorded live? is this true?

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  24. Ruby says:

    Hey guys glad your ulbums doing well a complete stranger asked me where she could get it hehehe my favourite is by hook or by crook I’m not absolutely sure why though 🙂

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  25. Ruby says:

    Oh and sash I wanted to ask if I could have a copy of KISS The Plastics :-p jades go the one we used to have and I like the song you wrote on there 😉

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  26. Anonymous says:

    Hey does anyone know where the the physical album can be bought, not download?
    Thanks 🙂

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