Saturday, 2 August 2008

Immaculate Machine, Fables

Immaculate Machine, Fables
Mint Records

Kathryn Calder, vocalist and keyboard player in Immaculate Machine, is a sometime member of The New Pornographers (if we’re going to get technical, she actually just chipped in some vocals and a spot on the Joanna for the Pornographers’ 2005 record Twin Cinema). I know this because it’s mentioned every single time I read anything about Immaculate Machine.

Bearing this in mind, it’s not at all unfair to compare new album Fables against The New Pornographers’ output, because riding on someone else’s shiny coattails can never be an antidote to mediocrity. The good news is, Fables is a record cut from the same cloth as all your favourite Canadian bands, complete with layered harmonies, plenty of hooks and a plethora of unlikely instruments. Opening track ‘Jarhand’, a perky sing-along featuring vocals from The Cribs and Alex Kapranos, stands out as the best from this collection but also sets the bar too high for the remaining nine songs. The pounding, shouty ones like ‘Old Flame’ and ‘Nothing Ever Happens’ work best, with the glacial, prickly mood of ‘Northeastern Wind’ appearing as a welcome slice of melancholia towards the album’s close.

Elsewhere though, the three-piece lean too much on complex arrangements and instrumentation, with twee, syrupy results. Calder’s voice doesn’t help matters, being a stodgy and characterless instrument in songs clearly intended to be full of character. Likewise, the lyrics are a bluff of something more meaningful: “Send you off on a big adventure, X’s lead you to the treasure” on ‘Dear Confessor’ is typically banal. Then again, fables are cute nursery stories, not grand philosophies – and you wouldn’t stick a Descartes audiobook on in the car now, would you?


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