Don't forget to rate this album at the end of the post (something I'm trying out)
The Big Pink
A Brief History of Love
out September 14th
My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain, Cocteau Twins, Slow Dive: these are words that mean nothing to me. Apparently, back when I was learning to count, they were bands. Bands that more grizzled music writers than me have compared British duo The Big Pink’s debut album ‘A Brief History of Love’ to, constantly throwing these comparisons, the term ‘shoegaze’, and the recycled ‘wall of sound’ metaphor around, perhaps hoping in their nostalgic heads it will all stick, or maybe re-open an interdimensonal portal for their beloved early 90s noise-rock heroes to return. Obviously, they’d rather take back-to-back screenings of My Bloody Valentine 3D until they bled red and blue tears rather than have a talented band reinvent the genre for a new generation. And I might be exaggerating a little bit, but I’m not trying to be irreverent, I’m just being open-minded. I think the Big Pink deserves a lot more credit for making a killer album, that’s all.
Now, a brief history. The album is the lovechild of Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell, a pair of life-long friends. Before starting The Big Pink in 2007, Furze was playing for digital hardcore maestro Alec Empire while Cordell, the son of a famous record producer, ran Merok Records, breaking noisy bands like Crystal Castles and the Klaxons to the rest of us. Furze does vocals and guitar, and Cordell – who has no musical background whatsoever – does keyboard and synths. The album, ambitiously conceived, is entirely self-produced and was recorded in the historic Electric Ladyland studios (Hendrix, Bowie, The Clash) in New York City.
It is, in fact, eleven songs about love: according to an interview, each of the eleven songs represents a different aspect of it, the good, the boring, and the bad. But I wouldn’t really get caught up on this, because the extent to which this is apparent on first listening is not clear. Sure, it’s got its tenderness and its sap, and the word love comes up a lot, but you’ll probably be more caught up with the huge sound than the lyrics.
Let’s take a look at the opener, “Crystal Vision.” It starts with a few whimpers of guitar feedback (get used to it, there’s a lot), some electronic blips, a subdued drum pulse…then it hits. A layered, dense, noise bomb explodes and sends electronic feedback and pounding drum samples through your earbuds. The shockwaves of this introduction to the sound’s immensity don’t really subside until the album’s over – it stays this big throughout. Naturally, your thumb wheels the iPod volume wheel to the right, increasing the pleasure exponentially.
Next, “Dominos”, the third track and the album’s pop song. Furze’s subdued vocal style perks up a bit to sing the downright vile chorus of “These girls fall like dominos, dominos.” Now, don’t get me wrong: The Big Pink is trying so hard to make something radio-friendly here it’s kind of funny, but I do have to admit I’ve caught myself humming that lame chorus these past couple days. It’s the kind of sex-laden, womanizing type of singing that makes me think of Furze as The Strokes’s Julian Casablancas, but taking himself a little more seriously. This is an album about love, after all, not sleeping around and drinking 40s.
With the dubstep scene flourishing in London, the electronic influence on the album makes sense. On every track the drum and bass really kick, elevating the noise. “Too Young to Love”, “Velvet” (my personal favorite; with haunting vocals floating perfectly over a distorted, industrial-electronic soundscape), and “Golden Pendulum” are excellent examples of the kind of stadium-level and festival ground bigness that The Big Pink are aspiring to. You can just imagine the masses of swaying bodies bathing in these anthems. Reviews of their live show – which they perform with five additional members – have been rave, having played the European circuit of summer festivals last summer, and having just recently been announced to be opening for Muse this fall. If you like it, it might be a good idea to grab tickets to whatever small venues they’ll be playing on their debut tour before they get too big.
But The Big Pink’s genius lies in the fact of how organic the mesh of electronics and real instrumentation sounds. Electronic instrumentation is not a novelty anymore, and for this generation of young artists, electronics and technology are just a fact of life. Because of that, the synergy of the two sounds ends up sounding a lot more natural, and The Big Pink uses that to their advantage to amp up the immensity of their sound to a level and an originality that previous noise-rockers just couldn’t. No one would call this album cheesy the same way a lot of 80s synth-pop sounds tacky now.
Overall, the album is consistently great throughout. Most every track contributes a varied sound to the album, with only a few sleepers. My only detraction is that it sounds more like an experiment than anything else, a band testing out a bunch of new sounds without really committing, and for that it leaves a lot to be desired. Still, I anxiously await what’s next after this impressive debut.
And at the end of it all, you can’t help but think: can something this big, this colossal sounding, really result from just two people? Well, I guess that’s something kinda like love, huh?
Stream the entire album here, thanks to Lala. All you need is account. If you don’t have one, make sure to set one up. It only takes a second.
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