Music Has The Right To Children, by Boards of Canada
Suggested by Michael Sylvain
This album irritates me.
The very title starts the irritation. “Music Has The Right To Children” … I mean, what in the blue hell? It’s pretty much badly parsed nonsense. There are a few thoughts behind the alum name, such as it’s a play on a Music Textbook from the Seventies, apparently used in schools, called Children Have The Right To Music. Another idea is that it’s commentary on the fact there’s nothinh new under the sun, and that plagiarism in art is a fictitious construct. Another is that children are beautiful so Music has the right to be enjoyed by something as beautiful as a child, while a fifth places the meaning on the Pied Piper, using music to lure away innocent kids like a gamboling Michael Jackson.
The album cover also irritates me. A blurred and tarnished possible-Polaroid holiday picture, the families involved having their faces blurred in a bizarre Ringu-style curse which could lead to them all being dead within seven days of listening to it. It’s so incredibly hipster… get your hands in your pockets and pay for a design, instead of just grabbing a scrapbook snap from a car boot sale.
The band themselves also irritate me, on an admittedly smaller scale. They’re called Boards of Canada, and they’re not Canadian. They’re Scottish. Apparently, they’re named after a Canadian educational TV programme distributor, which ties into their recurring themes of childhood nostalgia and memory.
The music? Irritating. If the album cover is inspired by Ringu, the ambient low-fi plinks and plonks are likely inspired by Pingu. It’s a downtempo, ambient electronic sound, utilizing vintage synths and analogue production methods, and it has a understated soundtrack vibe. There’s no vocal component as such, but instead the band utilise samples from Public Broadcast programmes. Not in a cool and engaging way, like The Race for Space by Public Service Broadcasting, but in a rudimentary and repetitive way that’s, well, irritating.
But perhaps the most irritating facet of this album? The fact the music isn’t quite irritating enough to dismiss it out of hand.
It’s a very well-received debut album, scoring high across the review board, including a mythical ten-out-of-ten from Pitchfork (how irritating!). While I don’t quite ascribe to that view, it can’t be denied that the plinks and the plonks of this album do successfully build to something interesting on a fair few of these tracks. There’s a casual, effortless flow to gentle songs such as my standout Roygbiv and the strangely funky Olson, standing as beacons in a listless sea of the more “experimental” tunes like The Color of the Fire, Pete Standing Alone, or Bocuma. But through it all there’s a sense of assurance, of a band producing exactly what they want to produce, of an album that’s bringing a lot of depth and texture to the space it occupies.
A lot of people will love this. Me? I’m far to irritated to engage with it on the level it so gracefully asks. I give it 6/10, with my need for a more strident noise at the root of my miserly attitude.