Review Summary: In which the 80s gets broken by a broken band.
In a time where it seems more and more indie folk are turning to synthesisers evocative of the turbulent 1980s to spruce up their sound, what do Chairlift do to follow up their indifferent 2008 debut? Well, kids, they do the same, pretty much. Shocking, isn’t it? Well, apparently not, especially for those who’ve had the Brooklynites jotted down as somewhat aimless, post-MGMT apes since they hit the scene 4 years ago.
But restraining such prejudice reveals Something
to be something worthwhile, if not totally mind-blowing. Their scatterdash debut is replaced by a supremely more focused effort this time round, with a dark synth-pop slant flowing throughout all 11 tracks. It’s certainly more cohesive than previous detractors would like to believe, and has a few tricks to pull out of its velvet top hat - and trust me when I say there’ll be no bunny rabbits held in white silk gloves here.
Whether the inevitable tension brought about by the romantic spilt of creative partnership Aaron Pfenning and Caroline Polachek took a surreal artistic turn, or something altogether more contrived forced the direction of Chairlift into that of a violence tinged lead single is up for individual debate. Regardless, it provides Something
a pillar on which to perch, and gives the lyrics a certain sense of value, at least in the curio-worthy sense of the term.
The brilliantly named ‘Sidewalk Safari’ hooks the listener in with an odd, whirled intrusion of gargled synth, perhaps distracting from Polachek’s casual exploration of turning the steering wheel streetwise and mowing down bystanders – her car bonnet acting as the metaphorical bullet from a safari hunters rifle muzzle, aimed squarely at some distant Zebra, or person (read: Patrick), in the case of ‘Sidewalk Safari’s demented vision. It’s as surreal as it is enjoyable.
‘I Belong In Your Arms’ and ‘Take It Out On Me’, musically at least, offer similarly excitable synth-thrills, with both tracks sounding like some kind of forgotten 80s movie ballad (and well delivered by Polachek, at that), and go some way in steering the listener away from the impression that the violence aesthetic of ‘Sidewalk Safari’ is to be exhausted, with their explorations of failed love - a subject one might expect given the band members peculiar situation.
By the time ‘Amanaemonesia’ rolls around, Something
begins to take shape as a consistent listen, and with the song’s twisted rhythm and strangled vocals, the album takes a turn for the slightly more avant variety of indie pop, in itself indicative of a more ambitious and challenging direction the turbulent Chairlift have valiantly crawled towards despite the rather awkward situation the creative face of the band find themselves in.
Tension is often the be all, end all of a group, and here it seems like Chairlift have toes dipped into both pools. Something
is a slightly off-kilter version of 80s synth revival and by the end of 40 minutes, feels both exhausted yet worthwhile. But given how long (or little) Chairlift appear likely to last, the latter seems most appropriate when all is said and done, and despite relationship issues, Patrick and Caroline have made a more interesting and pleasing record than anyone could’ve expected.