Review Summary: Alternate album title: A Brief Recollection of Loveless.
One often has to wonder if U.K music reviewers are contractually obliged to hype debut albums released by their homegrown artists. Since yours truly only resides in a colony of the old dart, I am under no such obligation. Of course if I were, I need only to state three words; My Bloody Valentine. For fear of enticing mass hysteria however, no mention of that band’s seminal 1991 LP will be made during this review of The Big Pink’s ‘A Brief History of Love’.
The Big Pink is technically just two men, both of which have previously run their own record labels; lead vocalist & guitarist Robbie Furze and synth programmer Milo Cordell. Do not let that fact fool you however, as the sonic depth which they deliver here could have one thinking that a smorgasbord of musicians are involved. Creating such an epic soundscape is indeed an audacious ambition, as is the album’s concept that is given away by its title. You see, ‘A Brief History of Love’ is an attempt to sum up every different aspect of love… From being in love all the way through to feeling loveless. Ooops, let’s move on shall we?
Opener ‘Crystal Visions’ immediately showcases the duo’s feedback-drenched & multi-layered wall of sound, while follow-up ‘Too Young to Love’ gives off an industrial vibe by adding electronic elements. It is a captivating opening ten minutes that will have listeners recalling influences from The Jesus and Mary Chain through to Nine Inch Nails. But then, in a jarring shift of direction, ‘Dominos’ thrusts itself into the limelight in a manner that will surely see it be one of 2009’s most polarizing singles. With the simple & nonsensical – yet highly infectious – chorus of “These girls fall like dominos… Dominos”, The Big Pink suddenly give off an indie-pop feel, albeit one with much more occurring musically than the genre’s usual performers.
A cynic might suggest that the album’s remaining 8 tracks are all variations on the same theme of what has come before them, however that would be narrow-minded pessimism. While admittedly inconsistent, variety is adequate via a slower cut (the shimmering ‘Love in Vain’), female vocal assistance (the title track) and a misguided stab at synth-pop (‘Tonight’). Furthermore, ‘At War with the Sun’ and ‘Frisk’ see The Big Pink find a nice mid-way point between their wall of sound shoegaze and melodic indie-pop that is most likely where the band’s future will lie.
Even when The Big Pink misses the mark, no-one can accuse them of being boring since there is always something happening in the background… So much so that one could be forgiven for practically ignoring Furze’s Richard Ashcroft like vocals that satisfactorily slide through varying degrees of tone, register & volume depending on the individual song’s requirements. And what of the lyrics? Well, considering the ambitious concept, it has to be viewed as an opportunity missed. Moments such as Velvet’s commitment shy “You call out my name for the love you need, which you won’t find in me”, and Love In Vain’s desperate plead of “If you really love him, tell me that you love him again” are simply too few and far between.
Pointers such as album ratings and highlight tracks seem superfluous for ‘A Brief History of Love’, since it will likely be one of the most polarizing LPs of the year. Mind-bogglingly original or pathetically derivative? Near-perfect variation or misguided compromise? Not melodic enough or too accessible? Cocky extravagance or potential-filled debut? The answer to these questions and more can only be answered by one person; you. At the very least, you can be certain of one thing; The Big Pink’s ‘A Brief History of Love’ will elicit a response of some kind. It’s just that kind of album.
Recommended Tracks: Frisk, Velvet, Dominos & At War with the Sun.