I first wrote about former Mouse on Mars collaborator Niobe in this post, proclaiming the under-heard "Walk the Walk!" the best song ever...this week.
Well, it's still one of the best damn songs of the year, so I ordered The Cclose Calll, her fourth full-length, because I had to hear more. (Oh hell, I've never been much of a hyperbole fan, but I declare it one of the best songs of the decade.)
If the album doesn't measure up to that selection, there's some great stuff here. First of all, the Cologne artist should never let the guys in the band sing, which is ironic since the CD insert reads, "All songs + all vocals by Yvonne Cornelius" (her given name). The culprit(s) isn't credited, but her band mates include Christian Thomé on drums and percussion and St. Lindemer on guitar and bass.
Sounding a little like Dusty Springfield. From 2004's Voodooluba.
I've heard worse—far worse—but Niobe is 100X times better. With his fake or exaggerated British accent, guy has this Flight of the Conchords-meets-Ween thing going on, which takes this post-post-punk record into parody-rock territory, where it doesn't belong—not that every Ween song is a piss-take. But many are.
I doubt that was Niobe's objective, but Germans singing in English run the risk of sounding like Mike Myers' Dieter. Fine, if that's your intention (and not to pick on the French, too, but sometimes they really should stick to their native tongue).
An alpine road trip with kittens! From 2006's White Hats.
So, it's five-sixths of a fine record, and judging from her previous material, which is slower, quieter, and more experimental, it's her best to date. Aside from "Walk the Walk!"—that exclamation point is crucial—highlights include opening track "The Stillness," the buzzing "Stuck to the Fact," and the slinky, swinging "You Have to Be More" (in which she recommends that you "be more than a lousy singer").
If you like the playful, dance-oriented end of the post-punk spectrum, i.e. Rip, Rig + Panic, Pigbag, Essential Logic, etc., there's a lot to enjoy (the label has also compared her work to Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, and...Jose Luis Borges).
And it's hard to avoid the Nico comparisons, since the late Ms. Paffgen remains one of Germany's best known avant-pop exports, though the similarities are more vocal than musical; her trip isn't as dark or druggy. One way or the other, you can tell Niobe likes to cut a rug, tell a joke, and have a good time (in "Monsters under My Bed," she begins, "When I was six...I was convinced...that monsters lived under my bed!"). She just needs to keep the men away from the mic.