Jonathan Karstadt reviews ’4′ by Prague supergroup Eggnoise
August 8, 2014
Since its formation in 1994, the Czech band Eggnoise has defied classification with its frenetic genre-hopping. With the ability to evoke Radiohead, Donald Byrd and Simon & Garfunkel over the course of a single record, the band’s first three albums What a World (2003), Albumen (2007) and Yolk (2010) are characterised by relentless musical experimentation and exploration, utilising a large range of instrumentation and sampling, while always retaining a strong sense of and focus on melody.The band’s most recent outing, simply titled 4, continues in this vein, though the sound it presents is more settled: this has led to charges of musical populism in some circles, with singer and guitarist Ondřej Galuška responding to such criticism in interview with the Czech online magazine Novinky.cz: “When you experiment too much, the experiment begins to seem like just another cliche. It seems to me that even with our melodiousness we are still more underground than most so-called alternative bands.”
The album certainly includes a number of songs with the potential to achieve the popularity of the band’s 2003 hit Wonder, which sat atop the Czech music TV chart for eleven weeks. One such example, the opening track ‘Wandering Isle’, a subdued acoustic guitar-driven song whose lyrics seem to ponder religious zeal (“I don’t need my eyes to see where’s heaven, I don’t need my mouth to talk to God … my body’s crippled like a false metaphor hobbling in a blank verse … my evangelism is like a harlequin bowling for his columbine”), as well as more upbeat and lively numbers such as ‘To Grow a Head’, ‘Trouble’ and ‘Oh Darling’. There is nonetheless ample representation of the band’s more adventurous side, such as the song ‘PAT’, which at times descends from a catchy riff into fiery though contained free jazz improvisation.
With the group’s two previous albums dominated by songs in English, it is welcome to hear a number of Czech language songs on 4. Houpacího Koně (Rocking Horse) is admittedly a fairly standard rock ballad, albeit with the very catchy refrain of “čím dál víc” (“more and more”), while Moucha (Fly) consists of dreamy vocals floating above gently layered synths. In the final song Něco se (Something), the vocalists playfully toy with the constantly repeated line “co je tvoje, to je moje” (what’s yours is mine) to create a mantra-like verbal riff; the effect is impressive, and the song provides a fitting conclusion to an album that has great popular appeal while still offering a unique and refreshing musical experience. In Eggnoise’s playfulness and endless experimentation, the band are Czech to their fingertips, but it’s high time they had the wider recognition they deserve.