Artist: Legendary Pink Dots
Album: Your Children Placate You from Premature Graves
Review date: Jan. 12, 2007
The Dots’ music is as difficult to describe as it is enjoyable and moving to hear. Yes, they thrive on psychedelic industrogroove dabbed and fringed with experimentation; yes, the irrepressible Edward Kah-spell’s lyrics can be dark, mystical, deeply and hauntingly personal in detailing the most intimate moments and the emotions underpinning them. None of this speaks to the stark simplicity that defines the band’s 25-year legacy. No matter how intricate or complex the sound world gets at any moment, a few scraps of melody keeps everything grounded, a repeated rhythm anchors two or three broken chords. The Residents achieved this. It was also a Kraftwerk trademark. But the Dots have now taken the aesthetic to the next level.
Your Children Placate You from Premature Graves is the group’s 25th anniversary album, and it certainly captures all the weirdness, darkness and playfulness that have graced its daunting discography. Yet, there is a refinement of texture and sound manipulation evident here that I only appreciated fully after experiencing the disc on headphones. “Stigmata Part 4” bubbles with life far below the surface, distant voices and other nameless things coloring the spaces between chords and Kah-spell’s dangerously compassionate whispers. “A Silver Thread” is all repetitive sub-bass muscle against slithery saxophone, the two components threatening to tear each other apart as the musique concrete ventures of earlier albums become more integral parts of the song structures.
Lyrically, strides have also been made; themes from the 9/11-inspired king’s horses/king’s men diptych resurface in “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” where the dual perspectives of a foreigner and what might be a Guantanamo Bay prisoner are filtered through vaguely but appropriately “ethnic” sound sculpture. Kah-spell, always erring on the bizarrely aphoristic side, outdoes himself with the disc’s opening line: “Jesus loves the little children, even when they torch the cat.” Then though, there is the hypnotic and heartbreaking “Bad Hair”:
Will you stand next to me,
Will you cast nets for me,
Flying through space,
Or falling from grace, …
Similarly far-reaching and personally simplistic lines pervade the track, all set against a lush but transparent multi-pulse of guitars and subtle electronics.
If this is not the Dots’ best album, it’s in my top five, and that’s no mean feat for a group that has released consistently interesting and provocative material over the last 25 years. Here’s to 25 more.
By Marc Medwin