The Naked and Famous escapes headlines with sophomore effort
New Zealand electro-indie act The Naked and Famous is perhaps best known for a handful of singles off its first effort, 2010’s “Passive Me, Aggressive You.” “Young Blood,” a conveniently placed hit heard on a handful of television shows, could easily be ranked alongside fun.’s “We Are Young” and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” on a list of all-time, feel-good jams. This bombastic first effort, whose other highlights include “No Way” and “Punching in a Dream,” made a lot of promises for the group’s sprouting fanbase; unfortunately “In Rolling Waves” falls flat and leaves many of those promises in pieces.
The album lacks considerable flavor when stripped down to specifics. Its musical ebb and flow mirrors that of the Postal Service’s “Give Up” (2003), but these ups and downs have no Ben Gibbard substance to them. Despite being set to catchy, lush backdrops that could possibly make a grown man cry, “In Rolling Waves” has a heavy stench of fake melancholia attached to it. Some of it is charming, but most of it is sickly sentimental, with pangs of vague adolescent romance thrown in for (what seems like) just for kicks. The quick mood swing between “The Mess” – only one of two radio-friendly tracks – and “Grow Old” leaves the listener confused and irritated, the album only redeeming itself through the energy of “I Kill Giants” and the contradictory what-ifs and resolution of its finish.
Though the career of the Naked and Famous remains in its infancy, one conclusion can be drawn: the tenacity of “Passive Me, Aggressive You” overshadows the band’s current form. The sophomore release is always a toughie; there’s too much to prove and often too little to say, with fans scratching their heads at new strategies built from what could have been. The melancholy material found on “In Rolling Waves” is a Greek tragedy mask for the group, built from scraps of the classic comic… and it’s hardly a great-looking costume.
Some may ask why comparisons between albums must be made, and the answer is simple: the Naked and Famous has not matured enough as an act to separate its material into two epics. “Passive Me, Aggressive You” represents summer bonfires, casual sex, hard drugs, reckless abandon often found in typical youth experiment; “In Rolling Waves” merely illustrates a part two, the half-awake sequence of bad intercourse, hangovers and consequence. This is a reality no person likes to face, and no matter how much the band tries to don the facade with ornamental synthpop, the scene is still unbecoming and reeks of disappointment.
But as the album’s closer “A Small Reunion” indicates, there’s always a silver lining: the world spins madly on and glasses will always be raised. Here’s to me, here’s to you, here’s to the faces of our memories – we can only hope the verve of the Naked and the Famous’ former glory will catch on.