22 September 2009

The Big Pink: "A Brief History of Love"

Signed to cutting edge 4AD, the Big Pink has the scary task of following the tradition of pioneering, thinking-outside-of-the-box musicians such as Bauhaus, the Clan of Xymonx, GusGus, Lush, the Pixies, and Xmal Deutschland. But the duo (Milo Cordell and Robbie Furze) has taken the challenge and has produced an incredible album. Neither pop nor industrial, neither radio friendly nor obtuse, this is an adventure through a soundscape that’s inviting but coarse, as one of this years greatest odes to the past takes on a new twist for a new generation – “A Brief History of Love” (14 September 2009 in the UK, 22 September 2009 in the USA) is quite literally a standout, both sonically and in feel, in the field of music out this year.

Their namesake is from the Band’s debut album (“Music from Big Pink”), the Big Pink does not stretch that far back for their sonic queues. Actually, they do not even stretch as far back as the early 80s as many bands are currently doing. Instead the Big Pink takes its queues from late 80s, early 90s indie, industrial rock, and shoegazing. And though it may be easy to dismiss this album as a rehash of My Bloody Valentine or the Jesus and Mary Chain, what you really get here is highly crafted music that fits comfortably with this generation’s indie rock, festival ready music – but yet does not ride its coattail. Heavily compressed music, which uses electronic sounds for more than ambience, but also for melodic and emotive effects, the Big Pink sets themselves apart nicely from the indie hype machine, which is obsessed with post-punk revival. In mindset, they have more in common with the industrial influenced shoegazers, who played around with the mixing board for a distinct, slightly out of the ordinary, feel. With that said, the melodies are all theirs and incredible. They are those simple kind of memorable melodies, coupled with relevant lyrics, which often state the obvious, to the point that you can relate to it and say, “Hey, I wish I put that to paper first.” Take “Velvet” as the prime example. It has this airy, ethereal feeling during the first verse, that gives way to highly compressed guitars, feedback, and an electronic bass, and as you are expecting this perfect moment, this fantasy full of love, they smack you in the face with reality: “These arms are mine, don’t matter who they hold you’re made for me, and I’ll leave you alone… you call out my name for the love you need, which you won’t find in me.” Ah, those futile attempts of finding love in wrong the places and people.

The opening of the album, “Crystal Vision,” starts with a slow buildup of sounds and arrangements, which never quite explodes but keeps building into a deafening wall of compressed guitars. You sort of know from the beginning that these boys are going to play with your expectations of music – the album is not predictable, as it dredges through a thick undertow, holding your attention most of the time by what is out of sorts, the counter-intuitive arrangements. But unlike the plethora of “avant-garde” hipsters who try to pull this off, the Big Pink does not fall short. It is the charm of their music. Like in the second track, “Too Young to Love,” the background “clapping” type sound shouldn’t fit in, but it does, and you get into that groove. Another great moment on the album is “Frisk,” where the Big Pink really plays with the “techno” elements of their music. Nowhere on the album is background “noise” so interestingly arranged, almost the antithetical of the main melody.

If you swear on the post-punk revival, you are going to find a hundred reasons not to like this album, but if you listen to this album for what it is worth, you are going to be impressed. It may not be the most cutting edge, and it may not be the least derivative (which would be a funny accusation in a musical field of indie rock bands that all take their queues from the past), but what you have here is something distinct from what is out there. What you have here is something that is interesting. This is not the repetitive, 80s obsessed music that is prevalent today, and you should allow yourself to get tickled pink and take a serious listen to this album.

Track Listing:
1. Crystal Visions
2. Too Young to Love
3. Dominos
4. Love in Vain
5. At War with the Sun
6. Velvet
7. Golden Pendulum
8. Frisk
9. A Brief History of Love
10. Tonight
11. Count Backwards from Ten
12. Stop the World – iTunes bonus track
13. Dominos, Rustie Remix – iTunes bonus track

Keep up with the Big Pink at their homepage and MySpace.

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