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Album Review
Passive Me, Agressive You

Passive Me, Agressive You
by The Naked and Famous


Review Date
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.


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