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Midnight Movies
Lion The Girl
New Line Records

Having just come from reviewing the sunny pop of The Electric Soft Parade, here's a contrast - a sombre, moody new album from LA's Midnight Movies. Funny that the dark stuff comes from the Sunshine State while the cheerful noise emanates from rainy England, but I suppose that artists have to transcend their surroundings ....

This is the second full Midnight Movies album; the band have been big news on the LA scene for three or four years now, and maybe this is the one to get them a national audience. They've gained a new rhythm section since the last record, but their signature sound is intact. Singer Gena Olivier has given up the drums to Sandra Vu so she can concentrate on her stylish vocals and keyboards, floating on top of atmospheric guitars from Larry Schemel and all underpinned by Ryan Wood's pulsing bass. Fans of the great post-punk groups of the 80s and early 90s will find much to enjoy here. Take "Patient Eye", with its urgent bass and drums topped off by icy keyboards and a killer distorted, echoed guitar riff, bringing to mind the majesty of The Sound, The Chameleons or Comsat Angels.

Olivier's voice is one of Midnight Movies' great assets; she mostly uses a deadpan, icy-cool style that sounds a lot like Nico - she even a has a hint of a put-on German accent in the syncopated, new-wavy kick-off song "Souvenirs" - but can put in a good deal of emotion when she wants to. For an example, try the slow, majestic ballad "Ribbons", where the music echoes the much-missed Pale Saints and Olivier invokes the tone of that group's Meriel Barham.

A lot of the other songs blend into each other a bit too much, with a similar new-wave-updated-for-the-00's feel to The Killers' first album, but that compelling doominess keeps you interested on other standout songs like "Lion Song" and "Bell Tower".

This is a fine record that deserves a wider hearing than Midnight Movies seems to have attained so far; it's available on iTunes, Rhapsody and other streaming services, so do yourself a favour and take a taste. (There is also the now-obligatory MySpace page, with sound samples and live dates coming up in California, at http://www.myspace.com/midnightmovies)

-Gareth Bowles

Track list:
1. Souvenirs
2. Patient Eye
3. Hide Away
4. Ribbons
5. Lion Song
6. Coral Den
7. Bell Tower
8. Parallel Paramour
9. 24 Hour Dream
10. Dawn
11. Two Years

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