Friday, October 26, 2007

Celebration - The Modern Tribe

The Daily Growl nailed it by calling it the one that “got away,” as Celebration's newest, released October 8, hasn't received nearly the amount of press it deserves since arriving. It's currently in the ranks as one of my favorites this year, most easily pigeonholed as a Yeah Yeah Yeahs/TV on the Radio hybrid in sound, which is appropriate considering the guest appearances from members of both bands.

Live, Celebration is what its name claims, a visually appealing show with full percussion taking center stage, battling vocalist Katrina Ford as she howls and prances in a way that would suggest a style influence in Karen O (though, as many critics have noted, it is the reverse. They've got similarly-shaped chins, in any case.). On record, here, the music is just as much of an event, with drums consistently up front – even taking up an exciting climax at the end of “Pony” – as well as guest sax and trumpet appearances (“Heartbreak,” “Hands off My Gold,” “In This Land”) and vocal spots from every goddamned member of TV on the Radio.

According to the press sheet at 4AD, Ford spent an early incarnation of Celebration attempting to sing like a man, and on The Modern Tribe it is apparent that she's experimented with this possibility, as she almost sounds like a woman imitating the style of Tunde Adebimpe, which actually makes for a really interesting result. She's got the grace of a female singer but sort of tests her voice to see what it can do and where it can go, rather than settling for the route that a lot of female singers take, which is to “sing sexy” and leave it at that. This method allows her voice to be an instrument that stands up well to the abundance of percussion on the record, played with iron hands by drummer David Bergander. At her most intense moments, though, like those on “Wildcats,” she bellows like Sinead O'Connor and lets herself fade into an all-out scream. Why so intense? She's celebrating, of course! Har har.

There's also praise to be had for multi-instrumentalist (and Ford's other half) Sean Antanaitis, who handles everything but the drums, which amounts to everything from organ to Moog pedal bass to Mellotron and Guitorgan. What's a guitorgan? Fuck if I know, but 4AD calls it an “electric guitar hand-modified so that it can produce sound through an analogue organ tone generator as well as through its conventional pick-ups.” So that's that. What's refreshing about Celebration, and much of this has to do with Antanaitis, is that even with his use of guitar and the guest appearances by guitarist Nick Zinner, Celebration is not a rock band with a guitar-bass-drums formula; the subtleties of layers provided by instruments like Mellotron and organ allow rhythm to step forward, and the band to sound influenced by those things less traditional in indie rock, like African percussion and carnivals. Topping this off with lyrics like Ford's, which frequently mention ideas of passion, freedom, and natural beauty, you've got a band and album both worthy of their titles.

Celebration - Pressure (this one's a beaut! and features Kyp Malone)
Purchase The Modern Tribe


Anonymous said...

Man, I love this album, and that song in particular is fantastic.

China said...

I'll second both of those ideas.