Clean Bandit have burst exuberantly onto the scene this year with their contagiously catchy track…can’t remember the name? You’re not alone—the single in question, ‘Rather Be’, has achieved the slightly dubious honour of being the most searched track ever in the UK on music identification app Shazam, as well as being the most streamed track in a single week ever on Spotify. Clearly Clean Bandit have found a recipe for success with ‘Rather Be’, but have they kept it going for the full run of their debut album, New Eyes?
Those arriving at New Eyes with only the ubiquitous ‘Rather Be’ on which to base their impressions of Clean Bandit could easily be taken aback at the opening to New Eyes’ first track, a thumping beat which is closer to the realms of hard house than sunny pop. However the almost aggressive, though thoroughly enjoyable ‘Mozart’s House’ (house-style music that samples Mozart… see what they did there?) soon gives way to lighter, more accessible tracks that chart fans should find more palatable.
One of these is ‘Dust Clears’, which starts off in a similar vein to a laid-back Hot Chip B-side, but soon picks up into a bouncy, danceable tune, featured vocalist Noonie Bao’s stylishly-effected chirping, rounding this track into a potential summer favourite.
Clean Bandit’s most distinctive strength was clear with ‘Rather Be’, and can be heard frequently throughout New Eyes: they have a knack for blending classical strings in with contemporary electronic music, both in the form of the reasonably modern lilting violin line in ‘Rather Be’, and the anachronistic symphonic sampling in ‘Mozart’s House’. It’s not quite unusual enough to qualify as a unique or distinctive feature, but it does manage to set Clean Bandit apart from the wealth of existing dance and club music.
There are weaker points: Rae Morris’ uninspiring warblings on ‘Up Again’ tread a fine line between boring and straight-up irritating, and the drop comes too late in the song to rescue the situation. It was presumably conceived as a moment of calm amidst the various energetic dance tracks, but the first two minutes of this track end up dangerously close to the unimaginative drivel of Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke et al. The following track, ‘Heart On Fire’ is better—less grating, but still nothing particularly ground-breakingly original—it doesn’t quite match the high standard of the rest of the album.
There’s not any particularly coherence or consistency to be found in New Eyes. Those who prefer albums meticulously planned and smoothly flowing from track to track could find New Eyes a jarring, disjointed experience. Perhaps this is to be expected from an album with a different featured vocalist on almost every track; but it’s not just the vocals which change, the whole style of each track is quite radically different. From the hard-hitting club beat of ‘Mozart’s House’ to the infectious pop vibes of chart favourite ‘Rather Be’ and the gorgeously Carribbean feel of ‘Come Over’, if it wasn’t for the recurring light and flouncy violin New Eyes could almost be mistaken for a compilation album.
Still, what Clean Bandit might be lacking in continuity is more than adequately compensated for by some solid standalone tracks. ‘Come Over’ and ‘Cologne’ are particular highlights (the former arguably more worthy of a single release than actual third single, ‘Extraordinary’) and the melting pot of strings, 808-style drums and (unexpectedly) lo-fi chiptune bleeps in the two-minute outro is breathtaking. They’re unlikely to recapture the dizzying success of ‘Rather Be’ with any of the remaining tracks on this album, but clearly have the songwriting ability to ensure that they don’t get consigned to the “one hit wonder” bin any time soon.
New Eyes is available to pre-order now, and will be released on 2nd June.