Clean Bandit are an Electronic Music Group from Cambridge, England whose debut album “New Eyes” was released in 2014 following massive success with the single “Rather Be” featuring the vocals of UK singer Jess Glynne.
“New Eyes” brings together tracks that Clean Bandit had made from the previous four years which does see the album seem a little disjointed at times.
The version of the album I am reviewing is in it’s original form and not the deluxe edition which includes the hits “Stronger” and “Real Love” which in all honestly only goes to confuse the sound on the album even further.
Clean Bandit have one main difference from other electronic music groups which is simply that they use classical instrumentation within their songs. The violin and cello are mainstays throughout the tracks.
“Mozart’s House” featuring rapper Love Ssega was released in 2010 but makes it onto this album released in 2014.
This is an real introduction to what Clean Bandit are trying to do which is to take house music which can be monotonous and repetitive and turn it into something credible. The point they seem to be trying to raise is that such a intricate and creative music style such as Classical music can be used to transform House music into the same.
Rapper Ssega gives his commentary about Clean Bandit in his verses. It is clear that he is not a full time member of the band and his lyrics give us the sense that he is looking through the glass at what they are trying to do with the merging of musical sounds:
“Getting confused ’cause everyone’s taking all their time
They chase and flex the beat, it’s on my mind
Never liked classical, or even grime
Now they one-handed, won’t land it
Won’t stand it – Clean Bandit”
“Mozart’s House” does in fact include a sample from Mozart with “String Quartet No.21”. It is one of the many elements that makes this song intriguing and quite beguiling.
So the second track “Extraordinary” is anything but. The start of the song starts off with the vocal from singer Sharna Bass whose voice is unremarkable and with an annoying decision to sing in this laguid was and leave out letters in her words (such as the letter T) become a little grating.
The chorus of this song is weak and whilst I really like the tune the song would have been better as an instrumental.
“Dust Clears” is mainly sung by band member Jack Patterson with female Noonie Bao. The song is quite a generic dance/pop track which never really fully flows. The introduction of the vocal from Bao is welcome with a vocal that you would associate with something on a garage track. The violin is there again but it adds little.
“Rather Be” is track 4. I do like this song and believe that despite having been out for nearly two years (at time of writing) it still sounds fresh. It always sounds like nothing else and I have heard little to suggest we will hear anything like it again – even from Clean Bandit themselves.
Lyrically it’s a simple love song with many tried and tested lyrical paths. The vocal from Jess Glynne is the reason the track was such as hit as it just drives the track from start to finish. The song is well produced with the strings being used as a focal point of the song rather than just a afterthought inclusion.
“Rather Be” is a brilliant pop track with a great hook. This song will stand the test of time and if Clean Bandit never hit the heights of success again they will always have this song to be proud of.
“A&E” featuring the vocals of Kandaka Moore and Nikki Cislyn leaves me a little cold as all seems a little throwaway. The tune is largely forgettable and adding a violin doesn’t change that fact. The chorus is literally “Da da da da da da da” which begs the question why they needed to do this at all as surely they could have just left this silly inclusion out?
“Come Over” features Jamaican Rapper Stylo G and the vocals from Cellist Grace Chatto. I like this tune despite it having little connectivity with the rest of the album. The tune might be a little sickly sweet against the backdrop of Stylo G’s West Indian vocals but it certainly is one of the high points of “New Eyes”.
“Cologne” has a great hook and has a more UK Garage feel to it although the production is a tad too pleasant for what the track really needs. Like “Rather Be” the violin is complementing and really adding something to the track.
“Telephone Banking” sees Love Ssega make his second appearance on the album. What is it about? Well it seems to be about Ssega saying that he is glad he and this girl moved on because it has given him time to grow and that she should check him out again as he “wears chino'” and he is “such a lovely man”. I’m guessing it is meant to be funny? I’m not really understanding the point of this one.
“Up Again” is a smooth chilled out post club track. Lyrically it’s a little better than most on this album which isn’t saying too much. The vocalist Reo Morris lacks depth to her voice and the times she needs to stretch sounds just a bit too nice considering she is attempting to be defiant. The song develops into a very light drum and bass beat for a moment and then back out of it again. Messy production, average song.
“Heart On Fire” features the vocals of Elizabeth Troy who was the vocalist on the 90’s hit “Crazy Love” by MJ Cole. Try sounds a lot more comfortable on this garage track Clean Bandit have produced. The experience of her singing shines through as she is aware of her vocal limitations and also her strengths. I really like this track and it has a decent hook which the album has struggled with a bit.
The title track “New Eyes” starts with Jack Patterson singing/talking with the use of auto tune with the rap provided with American female Lizzo.
The song is so messy it wouldn’t be advisable to listen to loudly. The off key organ in the chorus from Patterson is nauseating and to be honest the rap from Lizzo isn’t much of a respite.
“Birch” is the final full track on the album featuring the vocals from Eliza Shaddad. He voice is quite Jazzy and very ethereal. The track is very atmospheric with the voice and strained violin lighting up the first minute. Some off beat claps come into the song but don’t ruin the atmosphere with a piano then being introduced. The song is musically interesting and the vocal does have it’s place.
“Outro Movement III” sounds like a Mark Ronson off cut at the start (think Bang Bang Bang) and then uses old school computer game effects throughout the rest of the instrument. Of course we then get the violin as I get the feeling they nearly forgot about it and knew they needed to include it as this is what they seem to be all about.
The idea of bringing strings into house music is slightly inventive but isn’t enough to carry the whole thing through. The strings have got to be the driving force in a song like on “Rather Be” and can’t just have an inclusion which vindicates the implication in “Mozart’s House” that house music is boring but just wait till you listen to this.
I would point out that Clean Bandit have been very impressive on the two occasions I have seen them live. The vocalists they have available to them in the live shows arguably give better performances than most guest stars on here other than Glynne.
There are points where you can sense that Clean Bandit can be a real force but it’s not enough for me on “New Eyes”. Better vocalists, more interesting lyrics and meaner production is needed if Clean Bandit are going to be able to mix with with other house music collectives such as Disclosure.