Monday, May 24, 2010

A Brief History of Love

The Big Pink

"A Brief History of Love"


The Big Pink are London's gift to the world. Probably not the most neatly wrapped one but everyone seems to like them regardless. Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell- the two men that make up the duo, have been playing together since 2007 and "A Brief History of Love" is their debut album.

According to an interview, the idea of the album is to show different aspects of love....(you have to admit this sounds like another tribute to the mother of all clichés)... love, as seen by two guys in their twenties, poured into the form of an eleven track album and delivered by electro-rock (as they have been labelled).

The first song, "Crystal Visions", is the perfect soundtrack for daydreaming at 4 a.m. With its long intro, reverberant backing vocals and constant feedback (general characteristics of the album) it has a very areal and massive feel to it. Kind of like love actually...

"Too Young To Love" starts with a catchy rhythm accompanied by plain (distorted) noise, if you will. As soon as the vocals join in everything seems to add up for a while but for me this song is clearly too long. The psychedelic, repetitive sound of the song lost its charm and started to get on my nerves about half way through the track and made me feel nauseous as if I had been spinning around a little too long. Then again, everything concerning love tends to spin out of control (and possibly make you want to throw up).

Now the third song, "Dominos", is the obvious pop hit. Suppose that listening to electro-rock(ish) does not exactly make you cry for joy and just maybe the first minute of the first song brought about arbitrary thoughts that slowing the track down and removing the vocals might make it possible to get away with labelling it 'post rock'. As a result, the entire second song might just turn into background noise because your mind is occupied with trying to remember where you put your Sigur Ros albums.... And then suddenly, the simple and almost disturbingly catchy chorus of the third song violently penetrates your conscience and you just know that "....these girls fall like dominoooos, dominoooos..." is what you’ll be humming in the bathroom for the next week.

After "Dominos" the next song- "Love In Vain", is almost disappointing at first. Typical oh-you-broke-my-heart kind of slow and doleful moaning. The song just seems to stand still as if it has grown roots in its own misery and ends without a proper ending. Perfect when feeling melancholy...and by the end of the song you probably are feeling melancholy. The considerably faster "At War With The Sun" in turn starts crawling out of the Pit of Sorrow but doesn’t quite make it to the top. You might think that this track would fit better between the third and fourth one to create some sort of a balance but this whole album keeps pulling listeners in different directions (soundwise), dipping them in various emotions so trying to establish a rational pattern won’t get you very far.

The sixth track ,”Velvet”, reflects a kind of mechanical state of existence where routine work and one-night stands help pass the time in between the nights you get really drunk and depressed over you ex. It starts with an industrial-sounding beat which is then drowned in the usual mixture of echoing high-pitched backing vocals and distorted guitars so it literally sounds like voices in your head that amplify until you pass out.

And moving on with associations with machines- the beginning of "Golden Pendulum", sounds like an overexcited steamboat out of a cartoon. The 'horn honking' may prove to be a turn-off but the chorus of the song actually feels cheery enough to make you want snap your fingers. It’s followed by the monotonous vocals and contrasting backing vocals of the eighth track, "Frisk", conveying a somewhat embittered view on love. The same old story- love hurts so "...fill your pockets full of stones and walk upstream..." Spellbinding nonetheless and this track is probably my personal favourite off the album.

The end of the album more or less repeats the sound of the first songs. So that "A Brief History of Love" features haunting female vocals that create a dream-like state familiar from the first track. The tenth song, "Tonight", in turn, bears some resemblance to "Dominos" and like the third track, it's followed by a fairly melancholy song because despite its desynchronized beginning the last song-"Count Backwards From Ten", is just as slow and almost as wistful as "Love In Vain".

The first track gives a good idea about how the album will sound like but each song is still a world of its own. Truth be told, I am not quite sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing because there is always the danger that the album has too many faces. Occasionally the melody and the lyrics even seem to be telling two completely different stories which adds the word ‘schizophrenic’ to the list of adjectives that could be used in describing The Big Pink’s first album.

However, at this point it would be smart to look at the title and the concept of the album again because love is not supposed to play by the rules nor make any sense for that matter...

So on account of it not being a failure in the eyes of someone not particularly keen on 'electro-rock', the overall assessment of The Big Pink's first album is still thumbs up.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Camera Obscura „My Maudlin Career“ (4AD, 2009)

A long overdue listen – they have been hovering on and off my radar as a need-to-check yet overwritten by a legion of oddities that the mighty ’tube and sharity pages have conjured up for the better part of the millennial turn, here today and gone tomorrow, to be had in preference to a deceptively surefire stability such as a band actually holding a recording deal here and now. Always the next day to find out. Yet there are deals and deals; labels and labels. Sneery as I am over stable-spotting, 4AD is something of a soft spot. Come the chance, I threw myself under the gentle opening punches of „French Navy“.

The peacock motif fluttering through the pastelsy album cover won’t cheat – the opening salvo is way sprightlier than the nocturnal house (as in „haunted“, not „acid“) style of 4AD. Less Cocteau Twins, more early Texas, all that Celtic soul ambition of putting the purr back in „perfect pop“ of the Me Decade. Camera Obscura might have their hearts in aulder synes but not for nothing did they once kick off with „Eighties Fan“.

Yet never trust a single – the Northern stomp of „French Navy“ yields to a languid flow of roadside reverie where Tracyanne Campbell’s vocals obtain the just-out-of-bed twang so de, um, rigueur in the nebulous transgenre publicly known as indie. No overwrought c(r)ackling under self-pity, though; more like holding steady against the current of impending stardom, watching the bodies of the boyfriends past drifting by.

The slow ones keep being pleasant in a wee bit Lynchian mode (think Julee Cruise, Chris Isaak) with „Careless Love“ waxing grand orchestral epic; but it takes a faster jangle of „Swans“ to pit the aspirational backing most impressively against the slumbersome sarkiness of the stay-at-home vocals. An even struggle now that the Swedish production unit bares its Abba tooth.

At present, then, homeward bound is little more than a fading memory for Camera Obscura: the lyric sheet draws a map of worldly sites right up to Mexico city of the reconciliatory upbeat closer „Honey In The Sun“. They do get around these days and it sounds like they’re ready to have it that way after all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

just a little something to continue the subject of Ans. Andur

now I know I probably should have posted this earlier, but just to give an idea of what a foreigner thinks of Ans. Andur's music here. I remembered reading it some years ago after that album came out. short, but well, says it all.