June 4, 2013

Son Raw is reminded of Michael Bolton, pre Lonely Island ironic comeback.

I was going to go in on Disclosure’s new album but frankly I can’t even muster up the hatred to tear this thing apart. In truth, it’s far from a train wreck and I’m not sure if any of these tracks could even qualify as bad in a classical sense; they’re well produced genre pieces that can and will reliably soundtrack fashionable retail outlets for the months to come. And I guess that’s OK – in Disclosure’s own words, they’re better than Guetta. Although I suppose that’s like saying gonorrhea is better than full blown AIDs.

Settle isn’t the worst album of the year but it’s easily the most disappointing. Not because I expected anything brilliant, but because a whole lot of people bought and support it and that says a lot about music. The truth is, unless you’re some sort of modern day Henry Rollins walking around in a constant fit of rage, you expect a certain amount of terrible mainstream music. There are people out there who voted for Michelle Bachman so it’s no surprise Pitbull and Kei$ha have viable careers.

Disclosure however, represent altogether more insidious form of mediocrity: a complete lack of new ideas wrapped in smug cultural arrogance. The brothers clearly have good taste – they name drop Slum Village, produce “deep” dance music that reverently champions their predecessors and reject any excess that might attract bros or scare aging music reviewers trading in their guitars for drum machines. Disclosure are also insufferably boring and slogging through Settle, you’ll begin to wish for something, anything, that might break up the group’s mid-ground plateau. This is the musical answer to mayonnaise sandwiches with the crusts cut off and the color beige. It’s evident that these guys are talented songwriters but they constantly sabotage their own material by playing it safe – witness how Hudson Mohawke transformed “White Noise” from a plodding non-starter to a high energy banger with a couple of 808s and a tempo change. Trap might be overplayed and simplistic but at least it’s current and invites debate, all the songs on Settle invite are golf claps and H&M purchases.

Settle’s success reinforces this kind of middle of the road innocuousness as something to strive for and once a style of music heads down that path, its days are numbered. In that sense, they could very well be UK Bass’ Arctic Monkeys: nice lads with undue hype who succeed for a lack of better alternatives. Except that’s not true: there are plenty of accessible dance music producers crafting fantastic records. Go buy those instead, this shit sucks.

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