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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stateless - Matilda: B+

I’ve never understood the comparisons between Muse and Radiohead. I concede that both bands started with a similar schtick of raging/quiet British alt-rock with soaring vocals, but, as both bands’ careers have expanded over the years, they have become quite divergent. Where Radiohead, in my opinion, have become more insular and spare, Muse are getting very close to eclipsing U2 as the most bombastic band that’s still making music. If you look at the two bands now, the most recent Radiohead output being 2007’s In Rainbows and Muse’s being their contribution to the Twilight: Eclipse soundtrack, “Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)”, it’s hard to imagine the connection as little more than cosmetic, as Radiohead and Muse are British bands that have frontmen who like to sing in a higher register.

You know who does sound like Radiohead? Stateless. Yeah, the influences are in and Stateless, a British band, have absolutely no qualms with copping the desolate, sheepish, and vaguely electronic sound that I was surprised to find I could track to its source material within the first track’s first ten seconds. On their second album, Matilda, the band also sounds like Massive Attack. Boil it down to Matilda’s basic elements and you won’t need more than that description before listening to the album. Songs like “Curtain Call” and “Miles to Go” sound like the work of countless bands out there right now, a good portion of which have flushed out their material to significantly better effect.

Another band immediately linkable to Stateless is the British band These New Puritans, which basically denotes that, at times, the band sounds like Radiohead and Massive Attack with a more pronounced Eastern influence. “Visions” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Gnarls Barkley album. All these influences combine to make something that doesn’t ever sound contrived, but, rather, the work of a band with absolutely no defining qualities. Matilda is a pretty good record, but it ranks in my mind as one of the clearest stylistic rip-offs of a single group I’ve ever heard, and when that group is Radiohead, your outfit is not long of this Earth.

So Matilda is worth your time if you like Radiohead or Massive Attack, and if you’re OK with that (and if you are, that rating up there would indicate you’re in good company), then the album will be a rewarding experience. The glaring lack of originality shouldn’t outright offend you, because the songs are actually pretty good. The only thing truly offensive about Matilda is that it took four years to make.


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