Album Review

Passive Me, Agressive You

Passive Me, Agressive You

by The Naked And Famous

4 / 10
27th October 2010

Reviewed by Gareth Meade

As ‘Girls Like You’ slowly brings The Naked and Famous’ debut album to a close, a soft ringing remains in your ears. It’s the resonance of hyperbole. It’s the sound of accolades, awards and attention. It’s the disparaging cynicism of those who’d already made up their minds. It’s the inevitable baggage that accompanied the release of an album by a band capturing the imagination of a population; 99% of which had never heard of them before the release of the album’s second single.

Thank god for time then, because that is what is needed to listen to Passive Me, Aggressive You with any real objectivity. While it’s easy to write The Naked and Famous off thanks to oversaturation and the brutish conditioning of record companies who couldn’t believe their luck, none of that is actually the band’s fault. What does become apparent after giving this album time is that its real problem is the way it adds to the feeling of isolation which is already inherent in New Zealand.

Because we’ve heard most of this music before. Not only that, but we’ve been similarly saturated by it, grown bored of it and moved on. It’s offensive to our intelligence that a band who brings to mind a roll call of better artists (at times so much so that it’s hard to hear where influence ends and plagiarism begins) still gets the benefit of the doubt, seemingly because they’re local. Equally frustrating is that this doesn’t sound like an album made in 2010 or even 2009. We’ve gone back in time while someone tries to convince us that we’re bang up to date; as if we didn’t have the means to know better.

Granted, that sweeping accusation can’t be made of everything on Passive Me, Aggressive You. There are times when The Naked and Famous do sound like they’re trying to find their own voice. ‘Frayed’ is a much needed conduit to the band’s rawer energy. Alisa Xayalith and Tom Powers sing like they really mean it, while their instruments exude a similar attitude. They try it again on ‘A Wolf in Geek’s Clothing’, but ‘Frayed’ is the more effective of the two. ‘No Way’, meanwhile, is epic in the best sense, building from almost nothing into a true behemoth.

But it’s ‘Eyes’ that sounds the closest to who The Naked and Famous are. A shimmering mirage of production disguises the song’s lack of depth; something that could ultimately be said of all pop music. And like most pop music its effervescent buoyancy ensures its instant success, if not its longevity.

But is all that enough to forgive how much ‘All of This’ sounds like LCD Soundsystem, ‘Young Blood’ like Passion Pit, or ‘The Sun’ like Radiohead? No matter how understanding you were, you would have to say no. Because what originality Passive Me, Aggressive You does have is buried under the weight of those glaring comparisons. Until The Naked and Famous can find as much success with ‘Jilted Lovers’ as they can with ‘Punching in a Dream’, they’ll forever be playing catch-up with the rest of the world. And subsequently it’ll feel like the rest of us are too.

Total: 19
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I call bull on this. If they were a band from overseas, you'd love them. People who consider themselves "indie insiders" or whatever seem to have some sort of smear campaign against these guys, who have done nothing wrong but put out a slightly-better-than-average record and worked industry processes in a savvier way than most new bands. The album's certainly a metric blobbatonne better than any Fat Freddy/Black Seeds/Kids of 88/Phoenix Foundation blather all put together.

If you can't enjoy the gorgeous M83-ish-ness of the single 'Young Blood' then you're lying to yourself. (Comparing it to Passion Pit?! Haha!)
Posted by Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse! - anonymous 6 years ago

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Good review, I think you have hit the nail on the head. New Zealand for the most part always seems to embrace bands that have jumped on the band wagon a few years too late rather than bands who pick up on a movement as its happening. Inevitably the former never make any head way overseas because every other country already has there own version of it.

Posted by - anonymous 6 years ago

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And 'The Source' is totally their attempt at 'You Appearing'
Not in a bad way or anything...
Posted by Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse! - anonymous 6 years ago

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When I first heard Young Blood on the radio I honestly thought it was Passion Pit. And I hate Passion Pit.

I think this review is exactly right. When TNAF released This Machine and No Light, they were at the front of this movement and it felt as if they were pushing their sound and the New Zealand music scene forward. I thoroughly enjoyed their first two EPs.
Now, with Passive Me, Aggressive You... they sound dated, conditioned and not at all like the exciting Kiwi band they once were.
Very disappointing.
Posted by 8021 6 years ago

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contemporary covers band, singer guy seems totally contrived...
young blood is about our youth blah vomit!

irrelevant considering the world's in a state at the moment..
Big label and c4 ramming it down our throats!
Posted by - anonymous 6 years ago

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Typical of indie people to start hating a band just because they get a brief brush with mainstream popularity.

It also goes to show that hipsters will shun those of their fellow kind who deviate even slightly from accepted norms. Let's face it, N&F are the biggest hipsters you could find (the hair! the attitude! the ultra-skinny tight black jeans! the way they hate people who dance at Mint Chicks concerts!), yet the mere fact they got C4 play meant that they were immediately ejected from the hipster club. Somehow ticking 95% of the boxes isn't enough.

The criticism of N&F's music is unfair and immature - I mean, did you really expect them to produce all their records in their basement on a budget of $50? And the irony of it all is that N&F would never have got a major record deal if it wasn't for the support of the hipsters who in the beginning were happy to hype the band up and pay $25 to see their EP release shows.
Posted by James - anonymous 6 years ago

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Do you really think they have ever made an EP for 50$ or less? Even dirt poor bands would spend more than that in one way or another. I don't hate this band & I can see why they are popular. However I think the authors point is that New Zealand for the most part initially is still too insecure to embrace bands that are more original & are more a product of their environment.
Posted by - anonymous 6 years ago

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great review. dead on!
Posted by joe - anonymous 6 years ago

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I agree, this review is right on the money.

Posted by yup - anonymous 6 years ago

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bollocks. this album is fun. just enjoy it for what it is, rather than attempting to sound intelligent complaining about what it isnt.
Posted by phil - anonymous 6 years ago

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Great review - its exactly what a lot of people have been saying and its probably something that N&F need to hear at this stage in their careers. They need to find their own sound.
Still can't believe that they won the silver scrolls with a Passion Pit rip off!
Posted by Laura - anonymous 6 years ago

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Do you not get the feeling that some band are only creating music because itis easy to "sound like" someone else. Copy guitar riffs copy drum beats and for a while it covers every thing up and then suddenly you realise it is like "someone else" and unfortunately someone else had done it better and also in a more original way. Almost every song sounds like someone else.
Posted by genna - anonymous 6 years ago

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I thought the album was good, aswell as there too earlier Eps
Posted by Ethan - anonymous 6 years ago

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So I'm not real indie but waited eagerly for this album to be released - and wasn't disappointed... Not really bothered if their music is trendy/young/local/global/overhyped/overproduced/enduring. It's fun! Plus they're so young they've got loads of time to make serious music. Sweet debut man. It's got spirit.
Posted by liz - anonymous 6 years ago

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but the New Zealand bands who get ' decent exposer ' are always going to sound like someone else? why would any label take the risk of signing a band with a twist on a sound no one has heard before? when it comes to 'new sounds' we have to wait for permission from the states or australia before we give it a chance, if we didn't.. well C4 and JuiceTV would be a lot like C42 and that channels scary, I haven't seen 1 midnight youth song on there.

Posted by maaay..te - anonymous 6 years ago

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bit of a close-minded review, but I can see where he is coming from
Posted by 12312 6 years ago

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tiene mucho futuro !!!
Posted by Oscar Campos - anonymous 5 years ago

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Posted by - anonymous 5 years ago

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Hey this rewiew is just wrong the songs works the sound is ok is there first album give the runers a chance!!!

Posted by Total stereo - anonymous 5 years ago

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