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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Elefant’s latest no longer paranoid

Elefant is back, and with a darker '80s-infused sound. After three years of touring, the band has released its sophomore album, The Black Magic Show. It is a definite switch from its first release, Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid, which reaches back to summertimes of old, hanging out with friends and having flings. Instead, with the new sound comes a new realm of material.

The album is a good move forward for Elefant. Its pop sensibilities have sharpened and the darker backdrop is a good one for frontman Diego Garcia. The new sound is more grounded in the rock genre than it was before. Love is still a big theme for the band, but its lyrics tend to verge on creepy at times.

With the track "Lolita," Elefant alludes to the famous character Dolores Haze from the Vladimir Nabokov novel. However, their simple descriptions of Lola, along with the music video, cause one to wonder if they have even read the novel. Making a song about a man's obsession with a 12-year-old girl does not exactly elicit pleasant images while listening. "Kiss me like they do in movies / Modern child of the night." Is this meant to be ironic, or are they trying to be cool? Even if Elefant is struggling with the question of desire, the song is still slightly disturbing. The song's sound, though, is addictingly dark. The distorted guitar is mesmerizing and the song's feel is reminiscent of an Elastica release.

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The album's introductory song is based on a Russian story in which Satan enchants a city. Unfortunately, this intro is hardly an enchanting way to start the album; instead, it drones on and on with inane lyrics. In general, unless a band is slightly quirky like the Dandy Warhols, they should stay away from having an introductory song — Elefant is no exception to this rule.

Some redeeming aspects of the album include its danceable style on such glam-rock tracks as "Sirens" and the more upbeat track, "The Clown." "Uh Oh Hello" is also a fun, pop-sounding musical snack. Fans will probably enjoy the album, especially with songs like "Why," which sounds like something that could have been on their first album.

Overall, this album has a dark and almost-depressing sound that is only saved from being suicidal with some happy tunes thrown into the mix. The album is kind of like bubblegum — you have had it dozens of times before but you still enjoy chewing it. You've probably heard the music on The Black Magic Show, or something similar before, but it is still fun to listen to.

Elefant's music does have a lush quality to it. Most tracks have an abundance of well-rounded and capably crafted digital sounds. However, this comes off as sounding overproduced and pretentious. A good portion of the album would do well on a popular TV show, perhaps an angsty teen melodrama or a car commercial. The guitar work is straight out of a Velvet Underground musical textbook and does not reflect the individualistic style from Elefant's first album. It is almost painful at times to hear the band's imitation Brit-pop hooks and rhyming lyrics, which abound. In other words, there is nothing new or groundbreaking here despite what PR gurus would like you to believe.

This band should know better, too, considering its first release, Sunlight. With the debut album, they seemed more concerned with making music that people could dance to and listen to while driving on the highway. Elefant seems to have lost sight of its original inspiration, and has become focused on a formulaic — and hopefully money-making — sound. Who knows, the overly smooth sound may be due to the influence of producer Don Gilmore, who has also produced music for artists like Linkin Park, Duran Duran and Avril Lavigne. Or perhaps it is due to the Argentinean air, as most of the album was written in Garcia's ancestral home in Argentina. The New York foursome just doesn't quite manage to make something new that will make a splash on the music scene.

Black Magic Show is a fun album. It is by no means a bad collection of music — it just does not deliver anything new to musical audiences. Fans will probably enjoy this latest release, especially after waiting three years to hear more of Garcia's vocal aesthetics. Those who buy the album will most likely enjoy its '80s influenced polished sound. Just realize that there's not much here that hasn't been heard before.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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