After a buzz courtesy of Rolling Stone, thenewno2 has released their long-awaited first album, You Are Here. Why is the group garnering so much attention? The project is the brainchild of Dhani Harrison (lead vocals, guitar, and synths) — son of Beatle George Harrison — and Oli Hecks (drums and synths). Harrison fans will be surprised at thenewno2's sound, as it bears little resemblance to the legend's classic rock, which was often punctuated by biting lyrics. thenewno2's genre, however, is harder to classify.
According to their MySpace page, Harrison and Hecks cite as influences Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles (natch), Cream, and Dick Dale. You Are Here's overall tone more closely matches two of their other favorite artists: Massive Attack and Tricky. Tracks such as “Back to You” combine hypnotic beats with heavy guitars. “Bluesy” would fit in nicely with either artist's catalog as well. Harrison's voice eerily recalls his father, particularly on the first single, “Another John Doe,” a spacey song that recalls '60s psychedelia.
Other hypnotic beats (along with Harrison's floating vocals) dominate “Crazy Tuesday,” which chronicles a long-distance relationship. “You're so far away from me,” Harrison and Hecks croon, a distorted guitar and Harrison's wistful vocals nicely capturing the sometimes-tortured experience of such a relationship.
Although thenewno2 definitely tends toward electronica, they still can rock, as on “Yomp,” where Harrison shows off his guitar-playing chops. “Idle Lover” also features rhythmic guitar licks that capture the ear. Hecks's drumming plays a major part in “Shelter,” the mid-tempo beat driving the overall moodiness of the song. Hallucinogenic lyrics permeate the songs, with “Shelter” featuring lyrics about “when the witches come,” reminiscent of the mystical lyrics of Led Zeppelin and Cream.
Harrison and Hecks experiment with various genres, creating an intriguing mixture. However, You Are Here lacks variety—surely the two musicians could branch into other sounds, perhaps better reflecting the diversity of their professed influences. While the electronica/rock mixture intrigues, having that sound dominate every track on the album gets a bit tedious.
It will be interesting to see how Harrison forges his own identity in music, as he clearly possesses talent. His voice is capable of reflecting emotion, deftly handling harder rock and intimate ballads. His guitar playing also seems impressive, although he makes great use of distortion and other effects. Hopefully thenewno2 will grant him the confidence to branch out on his own, as he has the artistry to forge a solo career.
The bottom line: Beatles and George Harrison fans will find the album bittersweet, as Dhani Harrison's vocals so closely resemble his famous father's. Listening to You Are Here seems like witnessing the debut of a truly talented artist. Electronica fans may like the band's psychedelic sound apart from Harrison's royal rock lineage. However, thenewno2's album includes little variety and lacks truly memorable songs. If thenewno2 project continues, it would benefit them to expand their musical range on future releases—they certainly possess the talent to do so.