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Music tends to follow a roughly similar arc through each and every musical trend. Stage 1 begins with a new, bold couple of bands or artists trying something completely different that doesn’t get the widespread critical respect it deserves at the time, though in time they receive sacred cow status and earn that most sought after position, the position of being in that boring argument about whether they were the first to try the new style of music (I’ll use punk as an example so think of the Stooges or the New York Dolls), though increasingly this first step is bypassed as music seems to be in a cyclical stage of everyone exactly copying older musicians but with newer recording equipment (remember how surprised people were when Fleet Foxes appeared on the scene, people were surprised to hear folk and tried to brand it as some sort of new movement, despite all of the debut sounding like the Beach Boys, apart from Meadowlarks which sounded like Neil Young).
The second stage is more underground or indie artists contributing their own take on the scene (continuing with the example, this is where CBGB’s comes in and the Modern Lovers and the Ramones release brilliant punk albums) then finally, years too late, stage 3 begins and major labels take notice of the movement and saturate the market with annoyingly prolific, watered down acts that divides the indie community as some feel it is close enough to the earlier, acclaimed acts and some think it’s mainstream shite (the punk example ends here because this is the stage at which the Sex Pistols come in and they’re hardly populist bilge, instead, I’ll fall back on the Fleet Foxes example, this is the point at which Mumford & Sons come in and make their millions). The final stage is when kids who grew up loving stage 3 bands start their own bands, influenced by the stage 3 bands and a couple of the more popular stage 2 bands. Reptar are very much a stage 4 band in the arc of post-punk revival. It goes: The Strokes-Franz Ferdinand, Vampire Weekend-MGMT-Reptar. You might then wonder, what’s the point in listening to Reptar then?
That’s the exact point, in the grand scheme of things, there’s no reason for Reptar to exist. Not to be all nihilistic about things, but if you want to listen to the whole post punk revival scene, you’ll listen to those bands that came before them. It’s not like they’ve brought anything new to the table. This album is a carbon copy of Vampire Weekend, but you know how when Gus Van Sant remade Psycho shot for shot and it was rubbish? It’s like that. The comedian Stewart Lee describes this English show Lead Balloon as an exact copy of Curb Your Enthusiasm, to the point at which someone’s lawyers would be involved, and for the running time of the album, I hear that joke over and over again. To be fair, there are some things different. It’s about 25 minutes longer for one. I mean, each song is about 5 minutes long. That is unacceptable. At best, this is a summery album with a Talking Heads: 77 influence, with a bit of Animal Collective added on top. But that’s only because of the incredible “influence” of Vampire Weekend.
I apologise that this is more rant than review but sometimes you have to speak your mind. The post punk revival is over and it’s time to let it settle down for a while, give it a rest year. I’m sure people will listen to this album and think “oh it’s not so bad, what a harsh review,” but it’s so tiresome when music is recycled. And I do feel that this is exceedingly cruel seeing as this is a debut album by a group of youngsters but a good example comes to mind. Radiohead started out as a stage 4 band; Pablo Honey was a forgettable Britpop grunge album that may have spawned Creep and the name of the greatest music site of all time, but nothing else of any worth. But Radiohead listened to the average reviews they got and changed, going on to create The Bends and OK Computer. So maybe Reptar, if you’re reading this, you’re the new Radiohead, you’ll do something original and impress us all. This could be your Pablo Honey, please make it so. Please?1 August, 2012 - 14:15 — James McKenna