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Friday, June 24, 2011

Handsome Furs: Sound Kapital (Release Date: 6-21-2011)

An image of the NSFW album cover is posted at the foot of the article.      

        Few musical acts have it either as tough or as easy as Handsome Furs. Just ask frontman Dan Boeckner. If it weren't for his other tuneful projects, co-headlining Wolf Parade being the most high-profile, Handsome Furs, the Two-man band that he splits with his wife, Alexei Perry, would not have received the immediate attention that it has. On the other hand, the outfit's offerings would likely be judged much less harshly were it not for Boeckner's pre-existing clout. Now on their Third LP, Sound Kapital, the Furs are coming closer and closer to maintaining a consistent identity, a fact emphasized by just about each and every single song on the album.

        We'll start with opener When I Get Back, a shimmering, dance-floor-ready slice of delicious electro-pop. Opening with Boeckner's signature croon/howl, the frontman's voice gives way to a feverishly catchy mechanical beat. Through about Three minutes, it sounds like a bold and perfectly rendered mission statement for the disc that is to follow... and then it lasts for about Two minutes more. The song's lack of brevity would be easier to stomach were it not for its utter aversion to sonic change. While the initial beat is good enough to never be fully squandered, it reveals its lack of depth by over-staying without remembering to mix it up. As it turns out, When I Get Back really is a perfect mission statement for Sound Kapital, an LP that time after time opens its tunes with something really special and fun before repeating it until a noticeable portion of the magic has been wrung out of the thing.

        Take the groove/shout of Bury Me Standing, or the pulse-raising pound of follow-up Memories of the Future. Both are far more than passable: They're really good songs that get stretched out to an uncomfortable size, restating ideas that were clear and bright enough to stick the first time without reiteration. The worst example of this comes in the form of closer No Feelings, which goes on for Seven minutes without ever establishing a good reason to be presented in long-form. Were Sound Kapital to be engineered in the fashion of a punk album, sporting a more expansive track list of Two to Three minute long tunes, this would likely be One of the most fun albums of the year. As is, its a mini-disc of Nine tunes, most of them good, some of them really good (the ironic 80's badass-ery of Damage, the steady, defiant trudge known as What About Us), and only one of them great (Serve the People, the disc's only real dynamic, shape-shifting tune).
        Not a single tune sips beneath sub-par, so the group's Third full-length is a long ways from failure, but hearing it flirt with something better so often just to waste its potential can be pretty frustrating. I would be lying to you if I said I don't miss the days of Wolf Parade, a band whose free-flowing jams seemed to better suit Boeckner's signature rasp than the pre-programmed, noticeably non-manual instrumentation of Handsome Furs. But what's done is done, and thank god the man opted for a project as interesting and fun as this one. I suppose I will count my blessings and cross my fingers that, next time around, Boeckner and Perry will bring the exact same level of beat-craft expertise, complete with editing room savvy that will make them great.

Grade: B-

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