By Thao with The Get Down Stay Down
Thao Nguyen isn't a name you'll probably be familiar with; let's face it, indie-folk singer/songwriters from California aren't a new, exciting prospect to many. But with the effervescent support of The Get Down Stay Down, a versatile duo of a backing band, she's produced some of the more accessible and absorbing indie-pop material to come out of the West Coast over the last few years. 'Body' is the second single to be taken from their acclaimed second LP, 'Know Better Learn Faster;' 13 tracks characterised by their extraordinary dynamism, rousing instrumentation and unhinged vocals.
'Body' is no different: it's exactly that, but with a jauntier and sometimes more jagged edge.
At the heart of the track is Nguyen's bitter remonstration: "What am I, just a body in your bed?" But where you'd expect Nguyen to have a crystal-clear voice which would teeter over a sorrowful lament, you'll instead find disjointed vocals, disillusionment and wounded anger. Clearly adopting the role of the neglected woman in a relationship, she not only belligerently questions her partner, but relationships in general. However, although the lyrics try to be argumentative, aggressive and pack a strong punch, you'll most likely be left underwhelmed by their lack of vigour.
In fact, the entire track lacks much cohesion or symmetry, particularly as the 'dark' lyrics don't run smoothly alongside the somewhat optimistic sound of the track. There's something in the jabbing, scraping guitars and cymbal-crushing, tom-thrashing drumbeat, which often evokes (to me at least) images of idyllic, sunnier climes and not the images of harrowing solitude and longing that the lyrics hope for. What's more, whilst the enveloping crescendos come across more confused than cathartic, they fail to add the menace to her lyrics that's needed to empower them.
In the end, 'Body' doesn't overly impress me; it seems too rushed, incongruous and patchy. But there's something to Thao and The Get Down Stay Down, something in their dynamism and disorderly sound, that leaves a mark on me; I genuinely think they could do a lot more. Well, I hope so at least.