Tuesday 2 August 2016

The Prophet Hens - The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys

Some albums have a song so good, so powerful, that it overshadows the rest of the album. There are variations on this theme. There’s the one brilliant song where all the other songs are lesser versions of it (Tonight on Sibylle Baier’s Colour Green).

Then there’s the band who write their best song ever and stick it on as the first track. No matter how good the rest of the album is - and American Water by Silver Jews is very good - it’s a downhill journey after Random Rules.

And then there are the calling cards. New bands who release one of the best songs of the year on an album. This has happened a few times in recent years -  Money by Lady, Archie, Marry Me by Alvvays, All Over The World by The Prophet Hens.

All Over The World didn’t quite overshadow the rest of Popular People Do Popular People, but it worked better when it was streaming before the album's release as a standalone statement of intent: ‘Here we are, this is a song as good as Heavenly Pop Hit. We’re from New Zealand, so you can forget about The Chills’ comeback because they’re not going to have a song as amazing as this.’

Roxy Music left Virginia Plain - their hit single and 3 minutes of music that’s better than many other bands’ entire careers - off their first album because it would have been a distraction. Maybe you’ve got a reissue of the first Roxy Music album with Virginia Plain on it. Its impetuous ardour might have made you miss the other songs’ ultra-styled grace. You might never have formed a band called Ladytron.

I’d put good money on The Prophet Hens knowing that first Roxy Music album. And Broadcast’s kitchen sink electronica and Stereolab’s cool detachment and Kraftwerk’s primitive robo-pop.

The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys is a better album than The Prophet Hens’ very fine debut. There are big pop songs alongside baroque misery. It’s 11 songs organised as a unified whole. Yes, there are highlights. Eleven of them.

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