ALBUM: A Genuine Freakshow – Oftentimes
Reading-based band A Genuine Freakshow is not a genuine freakshow. There are no superfluous third nipples to be found here (that I know of), no hairy babies and no gnomes or elephant men among their ranks. If anything, like putting a 5’10” Caucasian man in a cage at said freakshow, A Genuine Freakshow are disappointingly normal. That’s ok right? You don’t have to be disturbingly deformed or exceptional to have blazing qualities. As Longfellow said: “Men of genius are often dull and inert in society; as the blazing meteor, when it descends to earth, is only a stone.”Exceptional musical talent is not always obvious. You may have to dig a little deeper to find the gold. But A Genuine Freakshow make everything so infuriatingly, tantalisingly, teasingly difficult. It’s like finding gold scattered on the earth’s surface, opening up a mine to look deeper, and finding only fools gold.
The opening track ‘We Are the Undercurrents’ is the best moment on the album. With twinkling pianos, and melancholic, delicately picked guitar parts it builds up like a Mercury Rev track, to breakdown into something off Radiohead’s In Rainbows. But it ends with a stupid little segment that is totally at odds with the rest of the song, as if they couldn’t be bothered to think about how to end the song. It’s this lack of thought, and a tendency to lapse into laziness, that mars an otherwise impressive debut.
Elsewhere, as on ‘I Can Feel His Heartbeats’ this laziness manifests itself in an inclination to lapse into anthemic blandness ala The Feeling (a band I detest with a fucking passion) and Scouting For Girls. In complete contrast to ‘We Are The Undercurrents’, ‘I Can Feel His Hearbeats’ ends with a pretty little hopscotch played out with horns and glockenspiel that is the best part of the whole thing. Yes, A Genuine Freakshow has the ability to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, and defeat from the jaws of victory.
‘Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness’ is an annoyingly vacuous duet saved by a rapturous outro of ascending brass and string instruments. At its best, ‘Oftentimes’ combines post-rock and big melodies to stunning effect, at its worst it sounds like a cynical play for arena-sized popularity. There is a very fine line between the two, and A Genuine Freakshow’s touch is not deft enough to stay on the correct side of that line.
And just when you think it has nothing more to offer, Oftentimes presents another wonderful slow build moment with ‘You Cut Me Out’.
The problems with ‘Oftentimes’ are manifold. The producer has applied a thick paint brush to the album’s canvas making for a sound that is rounded and bland. The instruments blend into each other, when here the horns volume should be pushed up and there the vocals. The whole thing is frequently as saccharine as a My Little Pony lollypop. But amidst this dull inertness, a blazing meteor streaks across the album’s sky making you think twice, that this disappointingly normal mother fucker might be a genius after all…
Release Date 01/11/2010 (Peartree)