Victorian Halls

Charlatan

Written by: TL on 23/09/2011 15:45:48

Anybody remember Victorian Halls? The Chicago quartet whose two EP's (1,2) I reviewed in 08 and 09 respectively? Yes/no? Regardless, that band is back now, freshly signed to Victory Records and pushing their debut album "Charlatan", which is the topic of this review. On both the band's EP's, I commented that a) they sounded waaaaaay much like The Blood Brothers and b) they needed to work a bit on their hooks to be successful with such a sharp sound. Evidently, either they've read my reviews or someone at Victory Records thinks in similar ways as I do, because "Charlatan" clearly continues the progression established from one EP to another. Victorian Halls started on "Springteen EP" as a theatric, chaotic, piano-boxing band fronted by singing/screaming that sounds like a squealing child (hence fair comparisons to The Blood Brothers and Foxy Shazam), then slowly leaned into more catchy and electronic territory with "Victorian Halls EP", and on "Charlatan" they've more or less taken the leap into full-fledged disco-punk.

This has three major implications for the band's style: 1) There are waaaay more electronic sounds, 2) There are more occasions of clean singing, and hence better dynamics between that and the more hysterical screams and 3) Things are waaaaay catchier. While comparisons to TBB and Foxy Shazam are still in order, you could almost as easily think of Mindless Self Indulgence or Head Automatica while listening to "Charlatan", and on first impression, the record better off for it. The songs are more orderly structured around more accessible dynamics and most of them are endowed with either/both a recognisable synth signature or/and a catchy chorus. As much is evident right off the bat, with both "Girls Kiss Girls" and "Glass Depth Mood" seeming like regular party starters. Especially the latter has my attention each time with a subtle pre-chorus rhyme going "let this piano key smother me", before kicking into overdrive.

As it turns out however, penning songs like these has gotten habitual for Victorian Halls, who average about two catchy numbers for every three on the album. For proof of this, look no further than tracks four to seven, the latter two of which, "Upper East Side" and "La Di Da", bring more brazen rhythms, riffs and electronics to the table. As wonderful as it is to behold VH's newfound consistency however, this main strength of theirs eventually ends up being their main drawback as well. Needless to say, their hysterical style of disco-punk never felt like the deepest well of art, and if you listen to the record in one go, towards its latter half you're bound to start noticing that all the catchyness stems from rather cheap remedies, such as overly predictable song-structure and shameless lyric repetition. Moreover, Victorian Halls seem to have only one kind of song in them, namely the over-the-top, manic scream-and-dance party anthem. In this manifests my chief concern for them, because already around track eight out of twelve, I find myself wondering if the band is more than a one trick pony. As a batch of material for the band to play during would-be deranged live shows, "Charlatan" is no doubt the perfect case of ammunition, but as a record for one to go through in the solitude of ones headphones, it's built too squarely around a single state of emotion - a single state of intensity. That's the main reason it doesn't catapult the band into the big leagues, but when that's been said however, being a record with more than half its length made up of tracks both catchy and quirky still commands considerable recognition from this writer.

Download: Glass Depth Mood, Girls Kiss Girls, Upper East Side, La Di Da
For The Fans Of: The Blood Brothers, Mindless Self Indulgence, Head Automatica, Foxy Shazam, Jaguar Love
Listen: facebook.com/VictorianHalls

Release Date 16.08.2011
Victory Records


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