by Joe Gaudiana (@edgarclinks)
It’s no secret that pop music has always been obsessed with its own past. The extent to which certain artists choose to draw (or not) from that past is perhaps the crux of pop’s evolution. In the mid-1980’s, bands like the Jesus & Mary Chain flaunted their influences so explicitly, while framing them in new contexts, that their music became inherently meta. Based in New York City, Peel Dream Magazine nod to this lineage of musicians that play the role of historians, or curators, with their (great) debut record: Modern Meta Physic. The press release via Slumberland Records says, “(Peel Dream Magazine) harkens back to when The Velvet Underground resurged as an inspiration to a new set of bands.” MMP sounds like the Jesus & Mary Chain, Stereolab, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Spacemen 3 — artists that combine specific sounds from the past in order to create something new. Slumberland calls it “post-post.” The snake swallows its tail, as modernity forges onward, we repurpose the repurposers.
This is not to say there’s a lack of originality here, MMP still sounds unique, just fervently specific. Interstitial ambient pieces, vintage synthesizers and radio samples, set the scene in some late-20th-century dreamscape: an early evening fog rolls over the Catskills. It’s aural cinema, evoking an evocation. The songs on MMP work best when listening to the album in its entirety. Although — “Qi Velocity,” with its French-pop-via-Stereolab-style catchiness is a strong enough single to spruce up (spice up?) any playlist you’re putting together. The atonal beeping in the chorus is pleasantly grating — like hard cheese over bucatini. Vocalist Joe Stevens’ whispery voice doesn’t change much from song to song but it’s not until the tenth track that a Nick Drake likeness becomes palpable, floating above a jazz-tinged drum jaunt, on another standout, “Due to Advances in Modern Tourism.”
Part of the appeal of the retro-aesthetics on Modern Meta Physic is that they’re employed as a tool but not as a crutch. It’s not an attempted ‘revival’ of a genre, it’s not a ‘throwback’ sound, it’s just a well-informed, self-aware album, full of well-written songs, and very specific reference-points.