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Battles – La Di Da Di


For Battles, it was always going to be downhill after a record like Mirrored; a strangely hypnotic and danceable collection of math rock songs that let the group kick in the door, guns blazing, announcing to the world that Battles were a fully formed and ready to rock. While recording their follow-up, 2010’s Gloss Drop, the group lost their lead singer and were forced to bring in a number of guest vocalists to fill the void as well as dropping vocals from a number of the tracks altogether. This schism of sound didn’t do the album, admittedly very good, many favours. With their latest LP, La Di Da Di, the band has decided to forego their need for a vocalist and embrace their purely instrumental side, an entirely different ballgame that the group struggles to master fully.

As a Battles record, it does the job very well. Fans of Gloss Drop will be well catered for here as the group’s ‘everything but the kitchen sink’, schizophrenic approach to songwriting and instrumentation is still very much present. The staccato playing that defines math rock is still omnipresent as are the waves upon waves of electronica, and the band still knows how a make a fundamentally danceable groove, like a slightly more bonkers Holy Fuck. The record zips along a welcome pace, never letting its BPM drop below that of cocaine addict on a massive bender and never fully settling on a single movement, always finding someway to modify and manipulate the track in some new strange direction. When it works, as it does on ‘The Yabba’, ‘FF Bada’ and ‘Tyne Wear’, it is bloody brilliant fun, capturing that uninhibited sense of joy and energy that characterises a great night out. There is seemingly a lot going for this record, but sadly it doesn’t really amount to much.

This is an instrumental record, and crafting tracks of this ilk requires a very different kind of mentality and writing style, which the band don’t often fully realise. A worrying number of the tracks either feel like there is some kind of void where a vocal should be or merely like half-finished sketches, never fully fulfilling the promise they may show. The tracks have all these disparate and conflicting ideas floating around that, when properly managed, can all converge into a stunning whole; but for most of the record that convergence seems perpetually out of reach. Consider something like ‘International Dreambeat’ from Adebisi Shank’s second record. The track kicks off at high speed and rather swiftly builds to its coalescence where the band sync up and make something that just floors you. La Di Da Di is full of the build up. Every song, good and lacking, always seems to be building to some apex where everything will work perfectly in tandem, yet it never seems to reach that point. Like an indecisive sexual partner; it flutters around a lot during the foreplay, building you up and never letting you achieve that incomparable release. What should be spectacularly supreme, sadly just ends up being Badebisi Shank. Will Murphy