The Parlotones - Live Design

2010-06-22 08:14
Live Design

They're middle of the road, their fans are middle-aged radio listeners that like tapping their fingers on the wheel when they drive home and their music's used in Pick 'n Pay ads. But they're not wearing Prime Circle leather jackets and sunglasses on their heads. There's a camp, cabaret weirdness beneath the surface. The problem is, every song sounds like they’re trying to sell me something.

"Are we human or are we dancer*?" asked The Killers. The Parlotones answered, "Only Human," "We Call This Dancing." I've never really given them much time before, ingesting a force fed diet of ad campaigns, radio singles and impressive music videos. But twelve songs into Live Design, one thing's blindingly clear: Parlotones don’t write songs, they write power pop anthems.

Lyrically, Parlotones don't give much away. The songs are slick, too 'rehearsed-sounding' and it's hard to find anything rugged enough to cling to. Every line is an ambiguous Killers-esque ode to dancing, hearts exploding, being colourful or overexposed. One minute "nothing lasts forever," the next "this song is forever." There's no connection, directness or sense of personal vulnerability, it just sounds like lead singer Kahn Morbee's linking lines and melodies together without adding much of himself. The songs are uncomplicated. I guess that's what makes them so easy to sing along to.

If you're a fan of The Parlotones (and you're still reading) you'll love Live Design. Recorded on November 14 2009, live at The Coca Cola Dome, it's an 18 track, live CD and DVD combo of the band's greatest hits. And unlike a lot of other top SA bands, The Parlotones sound just as good live as they do on the radio. Morbee's voice is spotless.

Also, there's no pretension to Morbee's presence. In-between songs he speaks in a South African accent, he pronounces dancing the right way and there's a sophisticated sort of elegance about him – he actually sounds like a nice guy. But like I said, the end result's way too middle of the road, inoffensive and safe. Hey, it works for them – the crowd goes ballistic. But thankfully, when Morbee sings "this song is forever," you're only one click away from proving him wrong.

Final word: I still can't believe the design and packaging. Parlotones usually don’t mess around when it comes to presentation. This time, the layout is surprisingly terrible.

* not denser

I still remember the look on my girlfriend's mum's face when she saw the music video for "Push Me To the Floor". It was a crushed, "why-did-they-make-such-an-odd-video-for-such-a-pretty-song" sort of look.

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Karl 2010/06/29 6:55 PM
"But like I said, the end result's way too middle of the road, inoffensive and safe." Because music must be offensive and unsafe, right?
Louise 2010/07/05 9:56 AM
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I find it sad that South Africans find it hard to celebrate each others success, and choose to criticize rather than support. If you don't have anything positive to say, find something else to do, you'll live longer.
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