The Parlotones - Eavesdropping on the Songs of Whales

2011-07-27 14:58
Few bands have polarised SA music fans like the Parlotones have. Some have hailed them as the greatest local act since forever, while others have ironically emigrated to New Zealand to  avoid a national association with the blackshirted ones.

The reasons for the latter range from a simple distaste for their music, to the band's seemingly endless list of corporate associations – everything from KFC to Woollies stocked wines to computer sales. In their defense, they were one of the better performing acts of the FIFA World Cup opening, and their ambition may not be visionary, but it can't be faulted on a professional level.

The problem is, though, that there are little things about Parlotones music that just feel... annoying. Take the title of the album for a start: "Eavesdropping on the Songs of Whales". It's a fanciful and obtuse statement that doesn't really evoke its intended image – nor is it clearly decoded at any stage in the album... so it's hard to say what its intended image is...

Every song on the album seems to have been engineered to be an anthem sung in a stadium. So the music production is broad and sprawling and very, very well-executed. In fact, as a pure musical effort, the album is a fair success with moments of pause and bombast in good measure.

But the overwrought lyrical imagery huffs and puffs infuriatingly, "No more war / just love for one another.... follow follow follow us up to the pie in the sky / it's titanic, it's enormous... It's magic, it's magic, it's magic, magic, magic!"

So it goes for much of the album, save for the darker (and therefore much more interesting) "Inside", which discusses the final hour of life on earth ("Might as well screw just to pass the time").

There are "borrowed " lines that irk ("Wish upon a falling star / Passion patrol, accept us for who we are"), patronising romance ("You are all beautiful to me"), and quasi-religious philosophising ("We are all tiny / Like little ants we'll soon be crushed").

Morbee's dramatic delivery of these heavily-embroidered chestnuts portrays a parental demi-god talking down to his children. Ultimately positive messages they may be (benefit of the doubt here), but it suggests that Parlotones fans are a support group in need of some devotional utopian message of hope. Then again, this is a South African rock audience, so maybe that's appropriate.

The music is fine, but what the hell are they talking about?
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Inge_bell 2011/07/27 13:55
Totally agree on the "parental demi-god" thing. There is something that doesn't quite make sense there.
Gale 2011/07/28 09:49
I just don't like the fellow's voice. I've never actually listened to a whole track because of that, and so can't comment on the lyrics. I did mention the other day that it's ironic that they have a song called overexposed, and got a wealth of flack from loyal fans. I just laughed at them. :) But yeah, the music's ok enough I suppose
Hmmm? 2011/07/28 09:55
I just find their music lacks committment. It is almost as though they have written their lyrics and then edited them over and over again with the mass market in mind. Great party band. Have seen them at a corporate function, but not a band I still want to have in my CD rack 20 years from now.
Anton 2011/07/28 10:20
I really despise the fact that the 'best' South African band is one that sings KFC anthems. The Parlotones are BAD for SA music, as the real talent is being ignored, while a Right Said Fred style pub anthem group gets all the attention. God help us.
Surprised 2011/07/28 10:40
I am very surpsrised by the comments i have read so far,the 4 of you sound like some sad sad people, if you did actually listen to the lyrics and knew anything about how hard it is to sing the songs they sing and in the way they sing them i think you would have a different view, but we are all entitled to our own opinion i guess, it just sucks that you are not supportive towards the Parlotones because they have made it big after doing what they love for years.
Rob 2011/07/28 10:47
I feel The Parlotones have lost the plot, not sure if its because they have a deal which states they have to produce an album every 18 months, or if they just love the sound of their own preaching (more Khan on this, as Im positive he writes almost everything. Its sad, because I really liked Radio Controlled Robot, I actually remember meeting them outside a club (this was 3/4 years ago) after they had just played, and Roger Goode was saying to Khan that it was the first time he had seen them and he was impressed, I said to Roger that he should "give them a listen, they have two really good albums", at which point Khan said, "we actually have three", I didnt have the heart to tell him that I didnt include the third album because it was cr*p. Maybe if they spend more time writing, than marketing, and pumping out over produced material I will rebuild some of that respect I had for them 5 years ago.
South African 2011/07/28 10:59
Would be nice if they didn't insult us, by calling themselves South African, yet pronouncing words like "dance" etc. in fake American accents... Does Lilly Allen try to sound american to get sales? What about how the killers say "dance"... as they speak it... The parolotones are sell-outs.
Frank 2011/07/28 11:01
The Parlotones (always disliked the name), make tepid and lyrically banal music, carpeted wall to wall with every possible cliché. The delivery is overly dramatic in a way that makes it clear that any perceived emotional connection by the band to the music is forced and simply for performance value (nauseating as it is). @Surprised - I'm sick of being told that I have to like all South African bands that become successful, simply because they are successful. The bar for success in South Africa is set so low as to require almost no talent or artistic integrity at all as a prerequisite for success. I just thew up a little in my mouth.
H 2011/07/28 11:26
Khan writes according to a formula: sweeping stadium anthems with the same structure. They are hardworking and successful and I'm glad for them, but that doesn't mean I have to like the music. There are far more interesting bands on the local scene (not naming names lest it turns into a fanboy punchup).
Benjamin 2011/07/28 11:30
and I thought I was word, Overrated, love the comments, its exactly how I feel about this band, can you even call them a band??
Smiler Smith 2011/07/28 11:34
Seether kicks the Parlotones into touch.
fry 2011/07/28 11:51
Boring Commercial Band, spending as much time on marketing than actually making music. Their association with KFC makes sense. Their music is like fast food... conveniently & neatly packaged for the mass market - and kids love it. I prefer a band where the music comes first. Not the endorsements. Case and Point: The lyrics "it's magic, magic etc"...of course they had MNET in mind when writing the song. much money can we make selling this song for a commercial :)
Phf! 2011/07/28 12:00
Ive been a Parlotones fan since forever and I think they are brilliant! Do yourself a favour and go and see them live. They rock. You can say what you want about their lyrics, it way better than 'o bokkie ek willie vir jou jokkie uh uh uh' of 'baby tjoklits'......Seriously!? Khan has an awesome voice! Keep rocking Parlotones, you have amazing talent.
Jess 2011/07/28 12:11
I love The Parlotones! They're the best band in SA ever! I don't know what you guys are on about.
Thomas 2011/07/28 12:23
I seriously dislike these guys for no personal reason. Khans voice just offends me on a whole nother level. Their music has a feel of trying too hard to copy other successful bands (eg. the KILLERS). Its really beyond me that they get to claim the tag of best rock group of SA. They are POP to the max. Is that not exactly what they are trying to produce with their blueprint songs? popular music? RSA has so many brilliant, original rock groups. Just not these guys please!
Top SA Band??? 2011/07/28 12:24
Seether. Parlotones don't come close. END OF STORY.
Me 2011/07/28 12:27
K@k article, let the ones with more talent come forth.
IJB30 2011/07/28 12:33
I used to like the Parlotones, but I have to say that being bombarded with their music on a day to day basis has made me turn completely against them. If I hear magic or push me to the floor one more time I am going to scream. They are the main reason I stoped listening to the radio every morning. Cause ever damn station plays them over and over and over again. STOP THE INSANITY PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!! I am starting to feel like I am being brainwashed or something. Conditioned if you will.
Des 2011/07/28 12:42
I I compare them to a band like Wonderboom it boggles my mind that The Parlotones are so much more successful. Each member of Wonderboom is much more talented that The Parlotones members and their music is way better!! I think they belong to the same record company, so it makes me wonder why the one band gets much more exposure and marketing opportunities than the better band (Wonderboom)? But music aside, Cito is a lot sexier than Khan and he has a much better voice!! LOL!
david 2011/07/28 12:42
their songs all sound the same... very boring band.
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