Music Reviews
Up In Flames

Caribou Up In Flames

(The Leaf Label) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

Up in Flames was originally released under Dan Snaith's Manitoba moniker. His entire catalogue was re-issued as Caribou, so we have amended the artist title above to avoid confusion and to enable this review to link to later Caribou releases. Pat's original review, which follows below, refers to Manitoba throughout.

If you loved Start Breaking My Heart, Manitoba's last full-length offering, you'll...erm...possibly like this too. And if that sounds like the most non-descript statement to ever pass for criticism, listen to one track from the aforementioned debut next to one from Up in Flames and you'll see what I mean. This is because Dan Snaith's new LP doesn't just see him developing his sound or even incorporating new styles into the formula: it simply sounds absolutely nothing like the first album. At all. The sole instrumental voice has hired a band, replaced Tortoise-esque post-rockisms with woozy My Bloody Valentine/Spiritualized/Primal Scream/Spacemen 3 psychedelia (complete with Jason Pierce-inspired vocals) and hired a troupe of Gregorian monks to sing doo-wop over the whole mix. Actually, that last one was a lie, but there's every chance it will happen on the next album, if current form is anything to go by.

This album is, however, less a step into the unknown than a step into the unexpected, as Manitoba cheekily commit such grand larceny with regards to the back catalogues of Jason Pierce, Kevin Shields and Screamadelica-era Bobby Gillespie that the latter should probably take out a restraining order to discourage bin-rifling and general stalker behaviour. Of course, just as stealing is only bad if you get caught (well, that's what my gran always said, but then she IS doing 10 to 15 in Wormwood Scrubs, so maybe not) plagiarism is only punishable if the end product is shit, and Up in Flames delivers enough times to make it all ok.

Bijoux is a fantastic lost Magical Mystery Tour instrumental, complete with relentless looping build-ups dissipating into come-down-easy euphorics: hippy shit, in other words, but hey - it IS summer, and if you're looking for music to complement the easy feel of the season you've just found your soundtrack. Snaith has ideas like dogs have fleas - beautiful moments appear and disappear before you can adjust yourself fully to just how right they sound (the glorious ending to Twins is the apotheosis of the phrase 'leave 'em wanting more'), and each fragment of song appears simultaneously as the least expected and the most perfect revelation that you could hope for.

Hendrix With KO, with its swooping harps and Stereolab ba-ba-ba vocals sounds like walking home after getting together with the perfect girl/boy feels, and Crayon (the one real nod to the past incarnation of Manitoba) is The Jesus and Mary Chain had they replaced the smack with ecstasy. Every Time She Turns Around It's Her Birthday is the Spaceman at his most beatific, whilst I've Lived on a Dirt Road All My Life is Primal Scream at their most floweringly beautiful. To say that this is a Screamadelica for the new millennium would be an over-statement (occasionally the music-meld becomes a muddy and incoherent whole, as on Jacknuggeted and Skunks) but to say that on Up in Flames taps into that same magic is not: when the sun rises after an epic midsummer night, take a car and a stereo out into the country, lie back facing the sky and put this on, and feel, for one revelatory moment, just how perfect and complementary a mix music and life can be. Legal highs are rarely this good.