Scuzzy indie chancers and childhood playmates of Pete Doherty, Cazals caused a few excited murmurs in the East London grotty party scene a few years back, and after being spoken about in the same sentences as The Rakes and The Paddingtons, signed, quite (un)surprisingly to the 'super-cool' and 'uber-trendy' French label Kitsune. While the label is famous for its electro and dance output, the catalogue of which is hard to fault, they seem to have picked up a lame duck with the not so assured Cazals, and their shaky, to the point of defective debut, 'What Of Our Future'.
Aside from the horrendous lyrical clichés; "Life is boring, you can't stand getting up in the morning" ('Life is Boring'), the senseless rhetoric; "Why do I have to say that I'm sorry / When I don't even know what I've done?" (Big Mistake) and mindless platitudes "You don't have any heroes / You can't listen to God / You don't believe in anything / That's not what I want" ('Both Sides') that appear throughout most of the tracks on offer here, the hackneyed song writing choices and terrible production values render the whole thing consistently mediocre. The vocals are disastrously flat and soulless, no matter how far hard-smoking lead singer Phil goes to try and inject a bit of character into his gravely rasp; there's token anger on the loud ones, gesticulations at gentleness on the quiet ones, but nothing so dynamic as to surprise, or deliver something truly evocative. The lack of genuine feel, when coupled with the preachy lyrical diatribes, makes for rather trite listening.
Most of the riffs sound like blithely pedestrian, barely passable Bloc Party cast offs, with needless effects (made from modified Gameboys apparently) slapped on everywhere to paper over their clear and blatant flimsiness. With the aping of Daft Punk style talk-box backing vocals on 'Comfortable Silence' and 'To Cut a Long Story Short', and even more barefaced Daft Punk-isms in many of the electronically mechanical, arpeggiated guitar work that permeates much of the album, Cazals end up sounding like the Strokes doing euro-pop. But it's the intolerable poorness of the actual material that really lets the album down, made all the worse by various attempted moments of catchiness that sound at bottom, just desperately cringe worthy. It seems that Cazals are only ever going through the motions, with miserable gestures at melody and merely imitation song writing techniques. Each track has a perfunctory gimmick, whether it's the shouty self-loathing chorus of 'Somebody, Somewhere' and the predictable drop to a plinky Nintendo sounding blip-loop that follows it - an obvious and somewhat thoughtless attempt to bring some dynamic range to the song - or the ridiculously unnecessary and really quite laughable sixty seconds or so of silence that precedes 'Comfortable Silence', all of the production touches seem to have been inserted to cause some kind of pricking up of the ears, but constantly fall short of such aims. In their own words, the banal and "predictable repetition" of each fruitless effort makes for boredom indeed. It's quite telling that the more accomplished and punchy track of the lot is a cover; the hurried and hyper rendition of Spandau Ballet's robotic 80's electro-march 'To Cut a Long Story Short'. Most worryingly though, it says a lot about the state of supposed invention in mainstream guitar music, if sticking a load of synths and routinely choppy disco-beats together with fiddly guitars can be considered original at all. Since Cazals never sound bold or committed enough to any one aspect of each part, the outcome is merely a luckless attempt at musical alchemy that really is all style, and no substance.
The worst is saved until last however, with the sounding like it's coming through the wall from a stereo in the room next door production effect on whimsical and rather wet closer 'Time of Our Lives'. It's not cool and it's not clever; it merely says that Cazals didn't actually have the skills, or the balls, to pull off an honestly sincere, un-nostalgic attempt at a ballad, so to cover up the weakness of the song underneath, they just wanged the recording through a few plug-ins to make it sound muffled and somehow 'aged' or some rubbish. In reality it's just a sub-Keane piano tinkle of a song, with an even more ill conceived and compensatory remedy to hide its shortcomings.
So, what of Cazals future? If anyone loves them anywhere now it'd be an absolute nonsense, never mind having the benefit of a few years hindsight. Doubtless there was great effort, and in general, ample musicianship involved in this first full-length offering, but they seem to have overstepped themselves, and glossed over many of the fundamentals. By putting too much trust in production trickery, and in the sheer vainglorious belief that doing European electro and British guitar-wielding all at once somehow warrants unqualified success, they unfortunately fall wide of the mark, and without doing justice to either influence at all, bruise their own backs in the process. They're not run of the mill no, but neither are they exceptional in any way. The gaping hollowness that can still be heard underneath all of their aural disguises proves too much of a hefty failing, an insupportable weight of proportions not even Super Mario could overcome.
"All the best female-fronted pop songs ever ('Atomic', 'Kids In America', anything involving Gwen Stefani), mashed up and sung out by an indie Alison Goldfrapp in a stripy prom dress. Better believe it, buddy" NME