September 26, 2013
by Tjeerd van Erve
Earth MK. II – Music For Mammals
I stood there and wept. Last week saturday The Twilight Sad played at Incubate. A stripped down set, without drummer nor bass player, leaving everything I thought elementary to the sound of Glaswegian band away. What remained were the songs and these songs blew me away. Bare naked, performed from their toes, especially with the singer, they proved that it is not the sound that makes the band, it’s the songs. And with The Twilight Sad these songs breath, live, kick and hurt, no matter what the form.
Which brings me to Earth MK. II. With this Dutch band it seems to be all about the form. The right reverb, a spot on echo and loads of effects to recreate the sound of the late 1960s with a hint of the second psych-folk and pop wave in the mid 1980s, the band around drummer Hugo van de Poel perfectly fits in. Nice and netjes – as Mr. Foster calls it in his article on Subbacultcha – Earth MK. II uses the right tricks and colours to paint a psych-folk band. It’s almost like painting with Bob Ross.
Earth MK. II perfectly fits in with the current – third – psych- and weird folk wave, tapping in to both previous waves taking that what is necessary to play at dressing up. And honestly it does get on one or two songs, one can’t deny the good hooks and catchy phrasing in The Warden and Timelapse. Still it brings me back to my own stage career, play-backing Guns And Roses in primary school. We looked mean and lean, I had make up on and as I was parading up and down the stage wearing the boots of my mom, pretending to be Axl Rose. Heck, we even had painted a big fake bass drum cover with the words R.A.F. (should’ve been R.I.P., but it still looked cool). We rocked and won the competition, maybe also because I paraded up and down the tables of the jury, and we felt, believed, it was all real.
But it wasn’t. Of course it wasn’t, it was make believe. And such is Earth MK. II, make believe. Neatly Jacco Gardner has helped dress the songs as psychedelic pop, again – as with his debut Cabinet Of Curiosities – proving his strength as producer and sound creator. But where he himself adds a thin new layer and clearly shows the ability of writing good songs, this sense of even the slightest form of originality is absolutely lacking on Music For Mammals. If you’d consider Jacco Gardner as a nice take on Herman And The Hermits trying to sound like Syd Barrett, his friends’ band misses this power because it misses – besides the two mentioned above – the songs. It is all play at dressing up, all play and make believe, but no content. But stripped of echo, reverb and the lean psychedelically tricksters the songs fall apart. At best a copy of the copy.