Monday, January 19, 2004


Air (Jean-Benoit Dunckel & Nicolas Godin) are quite possibly some of the very best producers in the field today. Everything they touch just sounds brilliant - smooth as silk and sweet as candy. The problems arise when they try to write songs, because - frankly - sometimes they embarrass themselves.

The problem with 2001's '10,000 hZ Legend' was not that the album didn't sound great, but that the songs were just not very good. I really think they need some sort of ombudsman in the studio, because under no circumstances should fake robot voices and spelled-out chorus lines (P-E-O-P-L-E I-N T-H-E C-I-T-Y) ever leave the confines of the studio. Looking back, '10,000 hZ Legend' is mainly notable for the presence of Beck, who, in retrospect, obviously seems to be straddling the cosmic goof-funk of 1999's 'Midnight Vultures' and the heady sincerity of 2002's 'Sea Change'. Otherwise, aside from Beck's contributions there are a lot of songs that just fall apart because of one or another goofy idea that just should never have made it past the demo stage.

'Moon Safari' still holds up. It still sounds wonderful, distinctive and is just a little bit corny in all the right ways. One of the reasons the album holds up so well is that they seemed to understand that at the heart of any good music is strong songwriting. They lost this concept altogether on '10,000 hZ'.

Thankfully, 'Talkie Walkie' is nowhere near the embarrassment of their previous album. Its got some good moments - and a few very good moments. Even though I dislike the helium-pitched little girl voices they affect on songs like 'Cherry Blossom Girl' and 'Surfing on a Rocket', the songs still work somehow. There are still a few blunders - such as 'Biological', featuring just the kind of lame lyrics that ruined their last album - but on the whole they seem much more conscientious this time out. Perhaps the very visceral backlash to '10,000 hZ...' upset them, perhaps not - in any event, they've not so much returned to the sounds of 'Moon Safari' as reigned in their songwriting... eccentricities.

All things considered, I think I can give 'Walkie Talkie' a tentative reccomendation. If you liked 'Moon Safari', well, you've probably already got this reserved down at the Sam Goody, don't you? In any event there's a lot to reccomend this album, and the good outweighs the bad.

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