It’s a precious few albums that go on to a cult-like importance where they’re seen as so vitally influential and yet nothing else ever sounds like the album in question. The Avalanches’ debut is one such record – a soundtrack to a day-trip spent sandwiched between speakers and blissing out to a strange and intoxicating blend of esoterica; of a time too when beat-makers, DJs and tastemakers were opening ears to long lost nostalgia-sounds, when attitudes were changing and those lush string orchestrations and summery sounds of the seventies and the fifties were being welcomed once again, when swing and jazz and lounge and pop and country and rockabilly were all allowed to mingle and listeners felt a tingle from the resulting waft.
The cult status of The Avalanches and the album, Since I Left You, was helped – hugely – by the band not living up to its name; only the one deluge of goods and then a 15-year hiatus with occasional commentary around if and when (and even why).
Well here they are now with Wildflower. And it’s another strange and lovely sonic tonic, another cut’n’paste collage that takes aspects – and influences – from The KLF’s Chill Out, Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, the first Gorillaz album, Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi and one or two other things, including – yes, yes! – the first Avalanches record.
The result: well fortunately it’s not Since I Left You 2. Nor could it be. But what I mean is it’s not like Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells circular trick, or Meat Loaf’s “Hell” sequel/s where the title being reprised suggests quality but really warns of a dearth of ideas. No, Wildflowers is its own thing – a whole new picnic blanket of sound. One that can be enjoyed, I assume, without knowledge of the sublime Since I Left You, one that could then only point people back to that record too of course. But one that also shouldn’t sound as any let down, nor any attempt to replicate.
I can see an argument against first single, Frankie Sinatra – with time it’s grown on me. It had an initial annoyance factor that rated right up there on the Crazy Beat-Albarn scale. But in the context of the album it’s both not a big deal – and of course skip-able.
Even if that song puts you off there’s plenty here to turn you back on.
The gentle fade of the album is a quick flick through some AM-station schmaltz and summery pop wafters after a more consciously hip-hop start – guest rapper Danny Brown comes in swinging like he was promised a Gorillaz guest-spot. And there’s the Motown-aping of the early Kanye productions on Because I’m Me and even on the murkier, slighter Going Home.
Things do mildly Daft Punk for If I Was A Folkstar, though maybe Daft Folk is a better line of thinking.
The pastel drift of Colours is sub-psychedelic pop, lazy Sunday-styles and off we float from there through Flaming Lips via John Barry (Zap!) and to some weird hip-hop High School Musical play-game (The Noisy Eater) before the sleepy, seventies-radio vibe drifts fully into play.