THE ELECTRIC SOFT PARADE Holes In The Wall (db)
The Electric Soft Parade are Brighton brothers Tom (17 years old, drums, vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, violin) and Alex White (20, vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass), and the artwork on one of the inner sleeves of their debut album "Holes In The Wall" tells you exactly where they're at. Its a collage of pictures of Tom's bedroom studio, plastered with posters, postcards and stickers of underachieving 90s indie and faux-indie bands such as Merz, Geneva, Ooberman, The Pecadiloes and Silver Sun, amongst, no doubt, hundreds of others. The brothers' decision to form a band was a result of too many shared hours around the hi-fi listening to Pulp's "Different Class", and after listening to "Holes In The Wall", studying the sleeve and scanning the duo's interviews it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that, for these White siblings, popular music's year zero was 1995.
Which, in a sense, is incredibly liberating. The Electric Soft Parade's music owes as little as possible to the traditional guitar band influences - it's nigh on impossible to trace their sound back in time to The Smiths, Sex Pistols, T Rex, The Byrds, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Chuck Berry or Robert Johnson, in the same way that it's perfectly plausible that, given their youth, The Electric Soft Parade are entirely untouched by the direct influence of those artists. If that sounds like a distraction, consider how many other guitar bands over the last 20 years have successfully made music that could have existed without any of the above: after Joy Division and The Fall my trail goes cold.
So for an album so pregnant with possibility it's something of a crushing disappointment that, on first listen, "Holes In The Wall" sounds more like a monument to indie underachievement, an impression reinforced by the thin production (although, with some of it recorded in the bedroom depicted in the sleeve photographs, it would be churlish to be overly dismissive purely on that point). Initially "Holes In The Wall" appears to be a collage of cliches that say nothing (to me about my life etc.) and melodies destined to be venerated only in cider-soaked indie discos in university towns up and down the land.
But don't give up just yet. Listen closer and you might discern something at the heart of all this photocopied emptiness. "Silent To The Dark", for example, is a nine-minute epic (as if these kids aren't precocious enough already!), a memory of the kind of Teenage Fanclub melody that even Teenage Fanclub can't write anymore, ripped apart by some Eno-on-a-stylophone ambience. And the distorted, raging chorus of "Why Do You Try So Hard To Hate Me" is pure Six By Seven.
What The Electric Soft Parade's music would benefit greatly from, apart from slightly more memorable melodies, is a sense of universal meaning. Their lyrics sound like the private mumblings of a mixed-up teenager, which maybe they are, but by comparison those of Suede, Pulp and Super Furry Animals (more pictures on their wall) are almost poetry. And it's difficult to escape the feeling that The Electric Soft Parade have hatched just a little prematurely, and could be a greater band after a little more gestation and experience. So "Holes In The Wall" is an album showing great potential and promise rather than real fulfilment. But the signs are all there: the White brothers might only be two or three albums away from being a very good band indeed.