Noah's Ark

(Touch & Go; 2005)

By Alan Baban | 6 October 2005

Confession: I had not heard of CocoRosie before listening to Noah’s Ark. From what I’ve read, I can gather that their debut, La Maison de Mon Reve, was released last year to some acclaim and that the Casady sisters have a penchant for haunting, wind-up doll melodies that entertain some (Stylus) and infuriate, well, Spin (no stars, thank you).

It’s always hard to approach an album objectively, with so many bigmouths ranting and/or raving about it, and even harder when you know next to nothing about the band. Hardest when the album’s, well, pretty weird. But anything’s worth a shot.

So I listened to Noah’s Ark last Tuesday. Then on Thursday. Yesterday I listened to it three times. Today I’m writing my review.

The first thing I want to say is that I find this album incredibly annoying. Actually, incredibly might be overstating it, but, there’s only so much discordant wankery I can take. That threshold was ably poled over on opener "K-Hole," where within the first minute I heard: a gazelle (or at least that’s what it sounded like) giving birth, a repetitive toy box melody and a disembodied voice breathing heavily into my ear:

‘Tiny spirit in a K-Hole / Bloated like a soggy cereal / God will come and wash away / Our tattoos and all the cocaine."

Noah’s Ark, for all its dissonant eccentricities, isn’t a memorable enough album to warrant repeated listens in the same way, say, Kid A does. And Yorke et al frickin’ nailed it on Kid A, outpacing their fellows to such a degree that I’m not able to listen dissemblance on record without, well, thinking how it’s been done better.

Is that 400 words yet? 287. Damn.

It’s hard to take a record that, for the most part, dodges melodicism seriously. I mean, come on, I want a record to listen to, not one to psychoanalyse, and Noah’s Ark can’t muster up any hooks that stick. The standout tracks here may be blessed with some insouciant progression but are always bogged down by some unnecessary, extraneous factor. The brittle production may hand the plucks on "Tekno Love Song" a certain splintered beauty, but the grainy, overbearing vocal gesticulation kills any attempt at a transcendant atmosphere. Sounding like a strangled cat isn’t art; it’s taking Animal Collective’s moniker maybe a bit too seriously…

Ideas are introduced, and then lost in a fog of cluttered sound effects, segments bleed into sequence, like a fugue of a fugue, a relentless spiral of relentless counterpoints that renders most tracks unlistenable. I mean, what’s the point of a record if you can’t listen to it? What’s truly infuriating, though, is that on the rare occasion that the background telephone rings, and random bird squawks are dropped, the duo can achieve a subtle, lackadaisical beauty, a warm glow that seems alien to the rest of the record.

‘Honey or Tar" is a wonderfully demented classic pop ditty with a hypnotic quality that combines the duality of the group's alternately grit-stone and airy vocals to a perversely comforting effect , whilst "Armageddon" would have been the song Emilio Estevez would have sung round the campfire if the Ducks didn’t win at the end of D2. And it’s just as uplifting as "We Are the Champions," at least until you read the lyrics.

CocoRosie are clearly talented when they keep things focused; fact is, though, that Noah’s Ark is so steeped in its own random, garbled universe that it makes for a frustrating, unrewarding listen.