The Elephant Room is a band that plays music sometimes. That’s what they tell us. At first glance, ‘Body’, their second full-length release, all seems a bit eclectic, and if your influences range from “Donny Osmond to Nicki Minaj and 2pac to Rory Gallagher” then you do indeed have a varied gene pool to dip in to. ‘Alco-pop’ – that’s the genre we’re dealing with here. That’s what they tell us.
Eclectic it might be, but ‘Body’ is one of the most fully realized albums to have crossed our paths in a while, expanding in scope as it moves from the initial electro spectrum into something much more immersive. The rolling synth line of opener Cerise is reminiscent of a barrel organ, laying the motif, and damned if this isn’t a catchy beast. Laser sounds shoot off briefly in the middle, an attention to detail that typifies this album’s many sonic delights. Aimer Tristesse, Adieu Tristesse continues in a grimy electronic, dance-y vein not unlike Liars’ more recent material, with a healthy dose of misanthropy in the lyrics.
The record suddenly takes a directional turn with the ensuing pair, as It’s Not Me, It’s You and Valley sees ‘Body’ sprint up alongside ‘90s-era Flaming Lips and Dinosaur Jr, tip a nod to them, then veer off to settle into a more relaxed pace with the shoegazers. Where the enveloping fuzz of distorted grunge-y guitars leads these previous songs, once more the band changes gears and the album winds into a different groove. Songs lengthen, ‘Body’ stretches out as it progresses, and a fluid, surging bass guitar takes the reins for the album’s latter half.
The densely recorded rhythm section provides the repetitive hypnosis required as guitars rattle and wail over the repeated “green light” phrase of Binge. Those same guitar lines beat Ashes out of its trancelike state with a wall of noise that makes its presence felt, quieting finally to allow the vocals to resurface and disappear in a fade out.
Once more, a tonal change; Habitat takes things back to a dark synth pop feel, a looped structure of synthetic arrangements and disembodied vocal samples. Triphop drums and bass supersede the synthetics; a harsher tone creeps in to the vocal, starting to scream that bit more as it edges closer to the end as if fighting a losing battle with the collision of effects.
A measured and muted No Vacancies transforms halfway through, suddenly upbeat and with more clarity; more playful, a bit like The Unicorns, before receding back into its fuzzier, unhurried realm with the help of some abrasive electric guitar. Ghosts rounds it all out – “Ghosts, Ghosts in my head/ They scare me the most/ Scare me right out of my bed” – almost like a macabre nursery rhyme, down tempo and pulse-like in its off-kilter march. What at first seems a dark, fearful admission flourishes brightly to the album’s sign-off, “My Ghosts and me/ We are so happy”, and one final cascade of echoing guitar. “Please enjoy our noise”. That’s what they tell us. It’s the bands self-effacing request. We did. You will too.