Every so often I come across a record or band that is so definitively in its own vein, I know immediately this will almost assuredly be incorrectly categorized in the record shops (unless, perhaps, there’s a “Simply Brilliant” bin…). Such is the forthcoming album CINEMA from Castling Queen’s Side.
This is one of those records where you can instantly name a handful of friends who will love it and a handful that will likely not be joining the fan club anytime soon. And that’s perfect. I call it the “Fight Club Phenom” – You love it or you don’t; but if you love it, you really love it.
As for me I am firmly in the ‘love it’ camp – but not for reasons I expected. This is an intelligent album – lyrically, musically, and stylistically. Some songs tear your heart out (“Black, Casual” and “Leaving for Paris”) and others are almost playful, on the verge of whimsical (“City Winners” and “Chase”). Every song on this record drips with a casual sophistication, and a brilliant sound that hums throughout on melodic piano and guitar over rigidly structured bass lines.
While few things irritate me more as an artist than when people accuse me of being influenced by some musician or band I can’t stand, I’m going to risk complete hypocrisy and state that I, as a listener, am picking up similarities to acts such as British Sea Power, Joy Division, and Barcelona and it is absolutely impossible to ignore the Bowie-esq vocals that are so present on every track (first track, “Rise and Fail” made me comment out loud that I felt as though I was kneeling in the Church of Ziggy Stardust; and it felt so right being there). Honestly, classical fans may even find similarity to members of the Second Viennese School Schoenberg, Webern and Berg. The brilliant blend of melody truly makes the vocals an instrument, bold and warm.
The real meat of why this record holds its own the whole way through is balance. Delicate and flighty interludes give way to bold and unapologetic choruses. Complexities in thought-provoking lyrics are hand-in-hand with simplistic and unencumbered musical movements. Feminine and aloof; Masculine and a commanding presence. In short, it is the perfect drag queen of the Indie-rock world.
Castling Queen’s Side have played a few acoustic sets in recent history, and songs like the blue and heavy “Confrontation” would be amazing as a live acoustic piece, and I can only imagine how great it would be to see this album performed in its entirety live.