OK kids, some marketing semiotics 101 for you. When you see the cover of `Turn,’ the debut album from Chili And The Whalekillers, you’ll see a rather pernicious trend known as the “indie band in a field” syndrome. Scrubbed up boys plonked in some nondescript piece of pastoral nature is meant to infer both them and their music with signs of purity, wholesomeness, something unspoilt. But after hearing the sterility of the contents of this album, the only thing I could think about was ordering some tarmac and turning that field into a sodding car park.
Make no mistake: `Turn’ may sound preppy, puppy faced, and full of fair-trade goodness, but underneath this veneer lays the deadened heart of utter mediocrity. And that actually takes a fair amount of skill to do when you think about it. They may be Icelandic ex-pats in Austria but this is US WASP coastal-core all the way, with West coast slack-arsed surf do-wop with East coast shadow-of-Vampire-Weekend guitar chops that blend into a mass of nothingness, the musical equivalent of chaff in the wind.
However these guys seem to be under the impression that mere competency in their hooks marks their songs as deep and meaningful. The liner notes talk of their songs being about “leftovers of love affairs, dreams, and political ideals.” They even have books on Marx and The Sailors Guide (?) in their studio. All right I suppose, if it was the big dumb colouring book of Marx, because songs such as ´Marilyn´ are witless attempts at social commentary, while the extent of their distaste at the state of modern living going as far as making the end of ´The Villa By The Sea´ a bit louder with a mumblecore monologue so far down the mix you can’t make anything out even after numerous attempts. Dangerous!
Even though Chili and his gang dearly want to be the “multi-media anarchists,” they talk about on “Faraway” on their side, you know deep down that the people they meekly mock in “The Villa By The Sea” are the ones most likely to be into this nice-y, polite, self-regarding, ineffectual chuff.