The Van Allen Belt "Superpowerfragilis" (Independent, 2010)
The Van Allen Belt claim to stand for "the advancement of human civilization". If Psychadelic pop tinged with John Barry orchestral flourishes is the music of our next evolution then 'Superpowerfragilis' is a compelling manifesto. With the gusto of Jefferson Airplane and all the histrionics of a Shirely Bassey Bond theme, Van Allen Belt are audacious in the best possible way.
The opening track recalls the sort of high camp drama of Mansun’s 'Attack of the Grey Lantern' before giving way to something altogether more hallucinogenic. Electronic samples, the swell of strings, a distant whiff of brass rolling over thumping drums and all the way through the intoxicating vocals of Tamar Kamin, a vocalist of some prodigious talent and bravery who seems equally at home with delicate lilting tuneful numbers as with insane experimentation. What is perhaps most remarkable is that music of this level of ambition is now being produced entirely on home recording software by the band – the music industry might be arguing that illegal downloading is their biggest threat, 'Superpowerfragilis' is evidence that perhaps the bigger problem is that bands (and their fans) no longer need big studio support to make and distribute music of this calibre.
'Superpowerfragilis' isn’t just a technical accomplishment. It’s musical influences might be obvious, but the satire is relentless and sometimes deliciously brutal ("You think there’s only room in this world for one God / So you keep sex out of your precious little princesses class / And virgins everywhere are ending up with cocks in their ass"). Occasionally the band's vitriol is a little careless. 'Slanted to the Left' might be the most interesting song on the album with its seventies theme-tune feel and delirious lyrics. The only downside is an ill-advised move into Biblical allegory - comparing the "unprogressive Hebrew" to backward thinkers and accusing them of murdering Jesus who is here allied with scientists and videos in being "slanted to the left" – it is certainly not meant to be anti-Semitism, but it leaves a strange aftertaste with a final refrain of "Jesus was murdered by your kind!"
As a listening experience, The Van Allen Belt will keep you constantly off balance. Each song seems to establish its own rules, then break them, then establish some more with such confidence you would think you were listening to Muse. 'Superpowerfragilis' is progressive and completely clichéd, pretentious and hugely silly, in fact it can probably take just about any paradox you want to throw at it. Nice one.
Date review added: Sunday, July 25, 2010
Reviewer: David Harry
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