Thursday, October 23, 2014
Down to a duo, the production is darker and song writing more chaotic, abandoning the beach strolling pop of previous albums. "I Can't Pretend" finds the duo closer to their former glory. The lyrics are still smart, but now the music matches the once subtle sneer the lyrics held. According to the commentary that I heard on the Spotify version of the album, this is the band coming out of the closet, song's like "I Hope Time Doesn't Change Him" sticks this fact in your face. The singer said he wanted the album to sound like a garbage can, while the other half of the duo wanted it to sound like the Sound of Music. What they got is a more garage rock sound that has a glistening coat splattered over it like a money shot.
The band calls "Kiss Me Again" the comic relief of the album, but it hearkens back to their more 50's sounds if draped in camp drag. It's a silly warped version of a pop song. "Let Me" rings up a breezy clamor. They have a really cool guitar sound here that is offset by the darker electronic pulse. The way these elements work together through out the album sounds almost like the Shins at times. The lyrics are cloaked in cynicism , not to the extent of Morrissey, but that sort of thing is present. It carries venom in lines like "they might hate you /but i love you/ and they can go kill themselves". Even when he sings this the phrasing brings the Shins back to mind.
The soaring pop of " Break My Heart" is delicate as it floats like a bubble. The guitar is equally fragile to compliment the overly sensitive vocals. This isn't the album's strongest song, but even then it's not half bad. The wondering of where he begins and this other person ends returns as the theme, though according to the band the album's theme is about being honest and who your really are. They call "Face of God" their atheist anthem, as it asks why are we waiting around for what is coming after death, when we waste today in the process. This song is especially compelling. The sense of movement in this song is pretty powerful.
They rather creepily stated they like to romanticize the idea of the Boy Scouts and this song is about dying alone."U.S. National Park" might be one step closer to the Drums turning into the Shins. They return to their more 50's ish sound on "Deep In My Heart".Even the band claims that the obtuse "Bell Laboratories" will always be a mystery. It is a shade darker than the others songs on the album. It's largely comprised on vocals and electronic bleep and blips. There is a little of Brian Eno influence on this. I can appreciated where they are going with it, but not sure if it is a song that will get tons of repeat listens.
"There is Nothing Left" is a quirky tender pop number that is not unlike their past work, so they have not forsaken their old sound for the garbage can. The album ends with a song intended for the singer's solo album, but the other half of the equation was so moved by it he insisted it be on this album. It's a reflective ballad that still has the electronic flashes around the outskirts. Well written and well sung, it more Kraut Rock than you might expect in a ballad from these guys.
I'll round this one up to a 9, they have put out some really classic stuff in the past and while I realize they are growing as humans and not where they were when they recorded the older albums, so of the Pet Shop Boys moments as well as the Shins moments take some time for me to adjust to as they had such an original sound it's hard for me to hear it with these added elements. If I had never heard them before I would be more impressed, but it is just a matter of me adjusting to the changes.