Midnight Juggernauts – The Crystal Axis

An album that’s more demanding of the attention than their debut, but one that at times fails to do enough with it.

After witnessing Midnight Juggernauts live some of us were left a little disappointed with their first album. 2007’s ‘Dystopia’ was far from a bad release, yet the vita thudding and epic, almost post-rock, nature of their live performance did seem somewhat diluted or lost on an LP that at times came across as not too different from much other Antipodean electro (Cut Copy, The Presets etc). On ‘The Crystal Axis’ Midnight Juggernauts have another chance to ensnare us and show that our faith in them and their ability hasn’t been entirely misplaced. They almost succeed in doing so.

‘The Crystal Axis’ starts off rather well. The intro track segues into ‘Vital Signs’ which, along with the following ‘Lifeblood’ and ‘This New Technology’, provides us with three cracking pop songs. Songs being the operative word, and a new element to their sound. The electronica is mixed with ‘world music’ percussion and woodwind instruments which overall feels a lot like Yeasayer’s fantastic ‘Odd Blood’ album. This sound is echoed in the wonderful artwork, which itself displays a myriad of instruments arranged perfectly in a room that feels both sci-fi and exotically terrestrial at once. Unfortunately this vibe is not maintained, and toward the middle quarter of the album the ‘world’ elements overtake the cohesion and pop whilst we’re left with a proggy vibe that’s easy to drift away from.

Many would doubtlessly find these moments preferable to a lot of ‘The Crystal Axis’ for the vocals feature with much less frequency. Personally we’re OK, with said vocals but understand that many will find them risible. There’s a pomposity to the delivery on songs such as ‘Cannibal Freeway’ that detracts from the fantastic pop sensibility that we’ve seen they’re capable of. It doesn’t last forever thankfully, with ‘Winds of Fortune’ bucking this trend completely. The band are bought together for some glorious harmonising of the vocals and a brief 60’s fetish is kick-started. Said vogue continues for the third quarter where we hear more rock instrumentation and a relegation of the synthesizers, which the band are so adept at using, to texture provision (see ‘Dynasty’).

Really, this is an album of four parts; the aforementioned pop (brilliant), the decent into prog (workable in places), the ’60s band vibe (pretty good) and then the closing pair – spatial clicking electro. Think the latest 65daysofstatic album and you’re along the right lines. It closes the album where we left began, in that it’s brilliant. If we were to edit this album down, removing part of the mid-section or honing the ideas we’d quite possibly have a corker.

Whereas, with ‘The Crystal Axis’, Midnight Juggernauts have created an album that’s more demanding of the attention than their debut, but one that at times fails to do enough with it. Overall this is a schizophrenic album and good enough to prompt us to want to catch them in their most flattering environment again – the live arena – where we’re sure many of these songs would become all the more formidable.

Tags: Midnight Juggernauts, Reviews, Album Reviews

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