UNKLE – End Titles… Stories for Film
Surrender-All (UK release: 7/7/08; US release: 9/2/08; digital download available 7/15/08)
Electronic / Alternative
First the nitty-gritty: UNKLE is an eclectic electronic act made up of James Lavelle and Pablo Clements. They are known for mixing their diverse array of music inspirations (mostly shoegazey electro-pop, classical strings, and testosterone-poisoned tech-rock) with avant-garde filmmakers. The duo recently scored the soundtrack to Odyssey in Rome, about director Abel Ferrera, and more notably, they provide the remixed theme for the new film The X-Files: I Want To Believe, due out July 25.
On their new record, End Titles… Stories for Film, they collaborate with indie notable Gavin Clarke on several tracks. More interesting—to myself anyway—is their collaborations with some bastions of so-called stoner rock in Black Mountain, the new cool thing amongst the bongs-and-beards set, as well as Josh Homme and Chris Goss of Queens of the Stone Age, respectively. As the album’s title and UNKLE’s general schtick would suggest, these songs are all about the moving image—sound paintings to either the film pieces that are a staple of UNKLE’s stage show or those in the listener’s head.
I get the sincere feeling that everything anyone needs to know about UNKLE could be encapsulated in what I just wrote, most of which was derived from their press release. Do fans of avant-garde filmmaking and tuneless electronic meanderings really care what they’re actually listening to, or just who? I don’t know, because they inhabit a hipster reality that might as well be Narnia to me for all I know or care to fathom. Now, that bongs-and-beards set I mentioned? Those are my people. Black Mountain? Queens of the Stone Age? I’m in. Problem is, the idea seemed sooo much better on paper. While the hallucinatory introspective qualities of the best lysergic rock and roll might also be found in whatever UNKLE is doing, where is the primal and mindbending ooze-und-throb? Why f*ck us in the head and not f*ck us outright? Why the drugs and rock and roll but no SEX?
Because, let me tell all you technoheads that are in your own way just as tribal and petty as the most pedantic emo bloggers: if you can actually f*ck to UNKLE, I don’t want to have the kind of sex you’re having. Given no alternative, I’d just smoke myself impotent and nod out to some QOTSA or Black Mountain on their own.
I can’t really parse out what’s different about one song from the other on this disc apart from that “Heaven”, featuring Gavin Clarke, is a sweet little bit of flightiness; “Ghosts” has a touch of heroin-daze ironic detachment that feels at least a little more alive; and that neither QOTSA luminary’s tracks nor “Clouds” with Black Mountain are really worth repeated listens. I’m sure that if I set my mind to it and really dug in deep, I could start to map out some moving images in my own head that UNKLE probably would like me to see. But nothing on End Titles… Stories for Film jumps out enough that I’d even want to do that. Head trips shouldn’t be that much work.