Transmission, the sophomore release from Cliff Jones’ brainchild, Gay Dad, is not so much a drive forward from the band’s over-hyped debut Leisure Noise (1999), rather a weak, thoughtless and futile stumbling into a glam-rock/Britpop/electronica hybrid. Not only does the album suffer from frivolous overproduction, in both musical and lyrical terms it is tediously bland.
The second track, “Now, Always and Forever,” best encapsulates the feel of the other 12 songs on the album. Its incessant, insipid whining about “future days” and “unofficial energy,” etc., is punctuated by a ridiculous digitized loop — the sort that Devo wouldn’t stoop to, even at their most playfully experimental — and stereophonic effects (e.g., rushes of air, vocal echoes) that seem at best a misguided groping towards stylishness. Halfway through, however, the flamboyance hits a lull, and this is where Transmission is at its relative strongest. “Plane Going Down,” “All My Life,” and “Breathe” successively hint at something more profound and capable behind Gay Dad’s chic, glossy magazine cover facade. Sadly, nothing ever comes of it.
Adding insult to injury, this band once claimed (with the support of a concomitant NME-led media buzz) to be the saving grace of popular British music. If anything is painfully apparent, they are now shamelessly struggling to mimic the style of their peers: “Harder, Faster” and “Keep It Heavy” sound like Placebo and Marion — as both bands did about six years ago.
Whatever Gay Dad was aiming for, Transmission falls despairingly shy of the mark. As for Thirsty Ear, whose label roster includes Brian Eno, The Church, DJ Spooky, and Saint Low, signing Gay Dad seems to have been an awful mistake.
Thirsty Ear Records: http://www.thirstyear.com