Her Space Holiday
The Young Machines
Mush
2003
C



brutal honesty in music can reap mixed dividends. It can lead to beautiful, powerful works of art: but only when the writer involves the listener, to such an extent that they cannot fail to empathise on some level. On the other hand, it can become overbearing and difficult to listen to - the audience may feel compelled to scream “Pull yourself together!” when the artist crosses the line from being involving, to just plain self-involved.

Her Space Holiday’s Marc Bianchi walks precariously along that line on The Young Machines. Frequently, he’s sharp and funny - full of self-knowledge and charm. Elsewhere, he’s so devastatingly sincere that it’s almost embarrassing to listen to. Playing this record feels like an intrusion, so naked are some of the confessions.

It starts with the exquisite title track - a gorgeous glitch-flavoured instrumental, complete with lush strings and child-like xylophone tinkling. The musical background to this record is frequently sharp, but can be stifled by the suffocatingly emotional nature of the words. It’s like being on the bus home, trying to listen to a gorgeous piece of instrumental music on your headphones, while the stranger next to you constantly tries to engage you in a heart-to-heart about his doomed love-life. Damned frustrating, in other words. “Shut up and let me concentrate on the tunes, please!”

For instance, “Something to do With My Hands” starts splendidly. Gentle rhythms whirr and click beneath a soft electric piano motif, while Bianchi drops killer lines (“Suck on my fingertips / till you kill all my prints”) in his dreamy, boyish singing voice. One awkward moment rather taints this excellent track, though. While Bianchi delivers the line “Your boyfriend has no clue / of how much I’ve been touching you”, the musical backing drops out, leaving just his bare voice. This seems like an unnecessary attention-seeking tactic, making sure we notice a particularly sleazy line. Bianchi is at his best when he delivers his seedy, sordid lyrics in a blank, innocent voice. When the music cuts out, it feels like he is trying rather too hard to highlight his dark side. As a dramatic device, it feels contrived and deliberate - disrupting an intriguing stream-of-consciousness.

Elsewhere, Bianchi “treats” us to some embarrassingly blunt confessionals. ‘Girl Problem’ contains the line “I’ve got a girl problem / I’ve got a drug problem / And I don’t want to solve them.” The listener isn’t challenged to dig deep for hidden meaning - these dark tales are as bald and straightforward as one could imagine.

Get past the initial awkwardness, though, and you‘ll find a delicious musical backdrop. An intriguing mixture of laptop-electronica and emotional indie song writing, this is engagingly quirky stuff. Tender ballad “The Luxury of Loneliness” is the highlight: Bianchi’s naked lyricism at last sounding more comforting than undignified, aided by a swoon inducing keyboard melody.

You won’t listen to this album without experiencing some cringe-inducing moments, but you may well be charmed by Bianchi’s unrestrained approach. The Young Machines is an interesting curio - but not one for the faint-hearted.
Reviewed by: Kilian Murphy
Reviewed on: 2003-12-08
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