Even hearing the name “High Llamas” leaves a dull, throbbing pain in the base of my neck. I still can’t believe this Sean O’Hagan and his cronies have been allowed to foist off their ponderous song exercises off on an unsuspecting populace for so long, with limitless critical accolades, no less. Mediocrity and lifelessness masquerade as meticulous songcraft and eclectic experimentation in Snowbug . I challenge anyone to actually enjoy this record. Quite honestly, the Backstreet Boys move me more than the High Llamas do. And yet the High Llamas are continually forced down our throat as musical geniuses by aging rock critics who once had their finger on the pulse but now have to champion lukewarm shit like this simply because louder music with some real inspiration behind it makes their ears hurt. Sean O’Hagan: the new Brian Wilson? Try the new Mike Love. Snowbug is every bit as adventurous and calculating as “Kokomo.”
I can’t even bring myself to comment on individual songs, because each composition is such a relentless assault of calculated sugary pop molasses. There are no dynamics, each song just kind of lolls along at its own smug, self-satisfied Sunday-drive convenience. Never really going anywhere, never really bothering with more than one melody line, just getting by on the strength of “credible” Hammond organ, or xylophone or some other archaic instrument fetishized by O’Hagan, Stereolab, or their legions of glazed-eyed followers.
The new Brian Wilson? I wish O’Hagan had even 1/100th of the demons that Wilson had breathing down his neck during his most prolific periods, maybe it would light a fire under O’Hagan’s creatively-bankrupt- Pet Sounds -xeroxing ass and force him to write something crucial instead of this middle-of-the-road, comfortable, Chinese water torture muzak nonsense. Overrated? Oh fuck yes.
V2 Records, 14 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10012