Ruth's Manuvas


My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

O. Children: O. Children – album review

O. Children

O. Children ooze melodrama – the type that tells tales of death and destruction with a wry smile on its face.

They have an audio-imprint that’s easily traced back to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, which is no coincidence seeing as their name is taken from one of the band’s tracks. However, on photos, the band look positively disturbing, forcing a raised quizzical eyebrow. O. Children’s goth-rock image is Dawn of the Dead zombie meets The Horrors’ wardrobe, which makes it hard to know what to make of them.

Literature about this London quartet seems to be fairly tongue-in-cheek. Hell, even lead singer, Tobi O’Kandi’s track-by-track description of his album is so passé about death and its instruments that it appears satirical. The record is a little bit Coen Brothers mixed with the sick-twistedness of Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange.

Malo kicks off in epic-sounding Arcade Fire style, with orchestral backing and clashes of cymbals. The deep baritone of Tobi’s voice is at first, shocking, but not unpleasant, and it oozes post-punk sorrow like Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, or Interpol’s Paul Banks. Western guitars laden with suspense follow with Dead Disco Dancer – a track the band claim has no reference to The Smiths. They’re far too whimsical for this lot.

Looping synths break through minor chords on Heels, but like an Editors track, it has a commercial chorus ripe for indie dancefloors. The use of a big-sounding chorus is a continuing theme throughout O. Children, especially with Fault Line’s backing singers, who warn of Machiavellian intent and Beelzebub.

Smile is an odd, odd track. Dour and slow paced, it features a freaky high pitched voice which appears out of nowhere, and a line, ‘When there’s nothing else to do, find the fun inside of you,’ that frankly makes Tobi sound like Baloo the Bear from Jungle Book.

From here, it all goes a bit Little Shop of Horrors with a Biblical twist. Ezekiel’s Son and Ruins fall into the background, whilst Pray the Soul Away’s Western-influenced guitars are both sinister and American rock cheese.

The problem is that quite often O. Children sound plain creepy. But then that’s probably the idea, and is no more so clear than on Radio Waves’ proclamation, ‘I want to watch you sleeping’, against the backdrop of a siren-like riff.

The more successful tracks are those where the music is less stark and adopts some of the theatrical quality of Arcade Fire. Don’t Dig is deliciously full at the chorus and issues a request to his listeners not to make a fuss when he is dead, as he’ll come back to haunt them. Bless their everlasting souls. They manage to balance ‘uplifting’ with dour subject matter and it’s almost Monty Python life of Brian-esque.

In reality, O. Children are less chilling, more camp goth and stray far too near to the gimmick line. Joy Division created glorious doom and gloom because they genuinely were in a bit of a bad mental state, and whilst this debut has some flashes of real quality, the rest feels more like a spoof of something truly gothic.

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