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Yellow Creatures - The Year of Everything and Nothing

Posted on Thursday, 25 September 2014 | No Comments

An important guest lecture concerning AGGLAC.

...thank you, thank you. I've been invited here today to help explain an exciting new concept in music criticism that has been developed by myself, in collaboration with Dr. Kerning Quixotic and our research leader, Professor Maria McGallbladder from the Manchester Bonehead Institute of Comedy Rhythm Guitar. It is, in short, a way of analytically appraising new rock and pop outfits operating within a traditional guitar-based group format and providing a methodology to allow one to quickly and efficiently sort out, as you say in this country, the wheat from the chaff.
This simple six-point strategy, which we have given the easy to remember acronym of AGGLAC, will enable to make crucial decisions regarding your music consumption once fully understood. For today's lecture, I would like to focus on how AGGLAC can be used to highlight the inherent qualities of a successful product and allow us a greater appreciation for its craft. If you would like to turn to the suggested reading for today, The Year of Everything and Nothing by Yellow Creatures, then we shall begin. If somehow you have not been able to digest this six-track effort already, I would advise that you urgently commit to some extra study before you decide to commit to some of the Endless Window programme's more challenging second-year modules, such as Abba: The Existential Void as Understood in Scandinavian Cod-Disco and A Proof of the Non-Existence of God in the Accent(s) of Alex Turner.
Now then, let us turn to breaking down The Year of Everything and Nothing via the AGGLAC method.

A: Architecture
It is important for you to note that this category does not operate on a single yes/no criteria. We are not talking about a literal appreciation of architecture - although the work of Talking Heads and East India Youth does succeed as such - so much as an appreciation of structure and invention imbedded within the work, an understanding on the part of the artist that the way of the architect, carefully drawing blueprints and designs before any work can begin, is the highest path to pursue. On these grounds, this EP and Yellow Creatures as a whole score very highly. The conceptual underpinnings of the band, a post-punk borne of Roxy Music and Dr Feelgood as opposed to The Stooges and The Sex Pistols and a twenty-first century revival of fifties pulp science-fiction and possibility, remain clear but do not become a burden to understanding. The songs are short, sharp and concise, the record designed to build and twist its way to a grand climax with the rampant garage-rock of the title track before offering a long exhale atop the rooftops with Sickly As Rainbows. We can judge both band and EP as displaying a strong, consistent architectural quality, and thus score them highly here.

G: Gang

This is perhaps the most difficult one to quantify. Girl groups and certain rap collectives would all naturally excel here, but one must be careful to separate mythology from fact given that we are concerned here with more traditional pop/rock band set-ups: The Clash would score very well here at the start of their career, but by the time of releases like This is Radio Clash, the desperate nature of the enterprise would leave the careful AGGLAC practitioner no choice but to mark down heavily. Again, Yellow Creatures have a very natural understanding of this component. The rhythm section of Joe Barton and Martin Jacobs manages great diversity without sacrificing a certain brute force; Paul Gardner makes for an ideal side-man on guitar and keys while Marc Bird boasts the right amount of authority up front, never dominating over or overshadowing the superb players of the band. The massed group vocals of tracks like the nervous Time Lapse or insistent opener Reset evidence a great sense of solidarity within the group, and lend the songs a great strength that propels the material without dragging it down into lumpen, unreconstructed machismo. The gang of four quality of their work - aha - feels fully earned, and not, say, the product of a London PR company parachuting in a new drummer at the last minute to replace an original member deemed un-photogenic before embarking on a publicity spree focused on the last-gang-standing (apart from the one we don't mention) qualities of the band, as with a certain commercially successful act of the recent, regrettable past.

*Dr. van Bullshit here coughs and clears his throat for several minutes, in front of an increasingly concerned student body.*

G: Goth Shit

Yes, I am remaining alive for now, thank you. Turning to the second G then: this is a perilous category indeed. To write off the allure of the dark side entirely is to leave you with frail, infirm music likely to shit itself the first time the concept of 'distortion' is mentioned within earshot. To not even acknowledge the darker aspects of humanity is, after all, to limit your art's impact to the chronically clueless and/or optimistic. However, if you take the full plunge, universal derision and mockery will surely follow, and even successful practioners are liable to expose themselves to ridicule should they pursue this direction too long: observe any public sighting of Robert Smith in the last twenty years, for example. Even the fine work of one Chelsea Wolfe has been afflicted by an unfortunate taste for robes and candelabras. There is therefore a delicate balance between observing the gothic without reducing your fanbase to just slightly irritating teenagers with questionable fashion taste and/or hygiene. Again, Yellow Creatures walk the tightrope carefully. The title track begins with ominous choral moans as recorded in the outdoors, a la virtually every black metal recording between the years 1994-1997, and certain motifs within the music suggest at the more pop wing of eighties goth. Thankfully though, their music retains a dry, surrealist wit and a grounded nature that will keep atrocities such as velvet capes and bad Victoriana pretentions at a very firm distance.

L: Lad Rock
Yellow Creatures are an all-male outfit, but mercifully the demon of lad rock is entirely absent from The Year of Everything and Nothing. This is a fatal charge if proven, but in this case we can proceed with a clear conscience.

A: Anachronism

The pop/rock guitar-band set-up is, in our current place in time, anachronistic to at least a certain extent. The question then is how the group is to what extent the group acknowledges this, and even uses this as an advantage. The Yellow Creatures sound derives chiefly from the lodestones of British psychedelic pop in the 1960s and art-rock in the 1970s, with a rhythmic format drawn from post-punk. Referring back to Architecture though, this knowing obsolescence is in fact part of their game-plan: the band thrives on re-location and juxtaposition of known materials, using rock and cultural history as a series of ready-mades that can be organised together to tell a new narrative. When listening to a song like the lead single Spinning Orange Catherine Wheel, with its saxophone refrains and vivid lyrical imagery, the first temptation might be refer to it as a fine track for The Teardrop Explodes. In the context of an EP that implores us to "stop this memory loss" and makes use of the archives of Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums to provide startling images of the scientific progress and industrial prowess of the recent past, the aim is re-discovery as opposed to revival. Any look back to the past is in service to a brighter future. If the year is everything and nothing, as they promise, then they reframe the Schrodinger metaphor not as a dual state but as an active choice - which do you, the listener, believe in? Their anachronisms we can judge to be morally and intellectually valid, and so the attentive AGGLAC practitioner must give them at least a passing grade within this category.

C: Complacency
Complacency is not an issue here. While they play with older sounds and genres, as discussed above, they are not content to just slip into one simple stereotype and rest there. Plenty of ideas and suggestions are packed into these twenty minutes, enough to make your standard jejune indie rock bore keel over in shock. Even when the relentless pace finally slows down for Sickly As Rainbows, we are gifted a ballad as the likes of Clinic would imagine it, beautiful and sinister in equal measure. The quartet of Yellow Creatures audibly drive each other to new heights, to pursuing new methods. Their curiosity will keep them safe from this most fatal of charges.

What AGGLAC has allowed us to do here then is to account for the reasons why The Year of Everything and Nothing is such a successful work, and why it marks them out as a vital young band. Anyone with sense could listen to this and tell you that it works, and works well: only with AGGLAC can you prove, empirically, that this is a matter of objectivity as opposed to subjectivity. One can only imagine that the future of these Yellow Creatures is potent indeed.
I hope that this lecture has provided you with a solid practical understanding of the AGGLAC method. Given time and practice, this will markedly improve the listening experience for you and allow for you to frame your judgements with precision and with recourse to the facts. I believe you have all been asked to prepare 2,000 word essays using the AGGLAC for two weeks time to your regular tutor: having seen the quality of work produced by new students of AGGLAC last year, such as An AGGLAC Demonstration of the Majesty of Annie Clark, A Critique of Twee Tedium with AGGLAC and the more plaintive Why AGGLAC Proves That Jake Bugg Can Suck My Fucking Ballbag, I am confident that with due diligence and attention you shall all prove fine students indeed and do the Endless Window University Against Life proud. Class dismissed.


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