Critic’s album not a critical success

Tim Orland

This is truly a critic’s album. Literally.

Fronted by former music critic Cliff Jones, Gay Dad’s sophomore effort, Transmission, is an album that recalls the heydays of glam-rock and Britpop but fails to come up with something new.

Jones, formerly of the British magazine Mojo, first formed Gay Dad in 1995 to little success. It was not until 1999 that the outfit released their first LP, the critically acclaimed Leisure Noise.

On Transmission, the band borrows from the sounds of the last 30 years of British rock. This nostalgic musical mix becomes their calling card as they gloriously dive into ’70s glam, heartfelt balladry and turn-up-the-volume rock. But this type of obvious borrowing keeps Transmission from getting off of the ground. With no central driving force behind it, the album ends up sounding like a smorgasbord of different sounds and influences. Because it lacks a distinct character of its own, the record plays more like a random mix-tape than a cohesive album.

There are plenty of fun moments, though, as Jones guides us through a modern history of British rock music. “Now Always and Forever” has the kind of hook and chorus that you can sink your teeth into. “Nightclub” has the unabashed energy of Parklife-era Blur. “All my Life” is a moody, but absorbing ballad in the spirit of fellow Brits the Stereophonics, and “Shoot Freak” is gloriously glam.

But perhaps this is what happens when a critic decides to make an album. After a career writing about music, Jones certainly developed his particular tastes, and maybe this is his way of paying tribute. With this logic in mind, the album sounds cold and calculated, like Jones somehow mathematically figured out Blur’s pop formula and decided to put it to use. But music should be instinctual and exciting. Bands like the Strokes, the White Stripes and the Hives certainly have their influences, but they also prove that throw-back lo-fi rock can still be thrilling today. Gay Dad is far more workman-like, moving through a playbook of old styles but failing to bring anything new to the table.

As Transmission moves from song to song, it’s not Gay Dad that comes to mind – it’s the bands that pioneered their derivative sound. After all, why listen to Oasis when you can listen to the Beatles? Why listen to Gay Dad when you can listen to David Bowie or Blur? It may be fun, but Transmission shows that nothing can beat an original. nyou