November 28, 2001

Black Box Recorder "The Worst Of Black Box Recorder"

There's something annoyingly dark about Black Box Recorder.That's not to say that Black Box Recorder have a Marilyn Manson that's waiting to be released--it's just that, listening to their album, The Worst of Black Box Recorder, you can't help but feel that there's a little something sinister about them. Perhaps it is the name. "Black Box" is something that is, essentially, something only associated with death--and often a very violent, protracted, cruel death. It's not to say that their music is evil. If anything, Sarah Nixey sings with the same kind of angelic style that is found in other heavenly singers as Sarah Cracknell, Shirley Manson and Nina Persson. But, like all of those other singers, Nixey sings in a voice that's just too good to be innocent and sweet.

The Worst of Black Box Recorder is, heh, a compilation album. What is it with me and comps these days? Unlike other comps reviewed recently, this album makes no reference to the origins of these songs; if you didn't know any better, you'd swear this was just a regular album release. But, logistically speaking, it is, isn't it? When you market yourself in markets that require two disks for each single, and at least 2 or 3 b-sides and remixes, you could wind up releasing an entire album just on the b-sides for one album's campaign!

Let's not get wrapped up in semantics on this one. The Worst of Black Box Recorder is a documentation of those second-class citizen b-sides, and, well--it's a decidedly mixed affair. First things first---Black Box Recorder are an awesome band. They make a nice blend of pop and noir-lounge. Sadly, that's all they make. For some reason, however, these songs don't blend together, and simply flow one from the next, without much difference being noticed. Taken in bits and pieces, however, the individual results are stunning. Just a few highlights that should not be missed--the evil Cardigans-esque "Jackie Sixty," the rocking "Start As You Meant to Go On" and their cover of "Seasons In The Sun."

Perhaps the most telling moment of this record is the song "The Facts of Life," remixed by Jarvis Cocker of Pulp. Why? Because it seems that the main theme of Black Box Recorder is middle-class living, life, culture, and thought. Look at the cover--a domestic scene. Lyrics variously touching at bits of culture, from "the facts of life" to romance with men and the cruelty of life....could it be that Black Box Recorder are trying to be a sister band to Pulp, sans the restraining order from Michael Jackson?

While there's nothing technically wrong with The Worst of Black Box Recorder, I can't really say who they are from this release. I enjoyed every minute of this very short release, and the four videos on the multimedia section were quite good as well. The Worst of Black Box Recorder does leave one question unanswered: if these songs are just the b-sides, how excellent, then, are their regular releases?

--Joseph Kyle

No comments: