Review Summary: At times painfully awful and at others hopelessly lovely, it's a never less than enjoyable diversion back into a scuzzy bygone era.
It’s been a while since we last met, my fault I’m sure. However, I think I still love you- differently from our first, fumbled encounters but perhaps more strongly this time.
I remember when we were first acquainted, almost exactly two years ago and a bit more. I had saved you up for my birthday because (sorry to have to tell you this), but I’d been hopelessly in love with your sister before you came along. In some ways, you two couldn’t have been more different: where she was lo-fi and indistinct, her timid beauty filtered through layers of scuzz, you by contrast were big, bold and brash, mixed and produced by no less totemic names than Flood and Moulder.
Despite this, I get the feeling even years later that you’re somewhat of the bastard sibling, the black sheep girl. Your parents, perhaps tellingly, have yet to produce a follow-up to you, a brother for you to be measured against. Even my love for you is somewhat bittersweet, somewhat conditional: in all honesty, and I say this as someone who has known and loved you better than most, you’re often more than a bit crap. Endearingly so, true, but after opening with ‘Belong’, your namesake, which is the fuzzy, frizzy, totally brilliant B-Side to ’1979′ that the Smashing Pumpkins never wrote, you head downhill faster than an octogenarian on a log flume. ‘Heart In Your Heartbreak’ is nice enough but I can’t tell whether your sensitive American self is being ironic or not when you sing, ‘She was the mis in your mistake’. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.
Where your lows are the lowest of the low (and they are terrible- ‘The Body’ is surely one of the most washed-out, wan descriptions of a sexual encounter ever put to music), you redeem yourself tenfold with your highs. ‘Even In Dreams’ is an authentic, anthemic slice of grungey tweenessthat makes me long to have been sentient in the 1990s. You’re so good here that you even make your typical lyrical clunker of ‘Even in dreams; I will not betray you’ sound the xylotol side of sweet.
I’ve always liked you most, though, as you come towards your end. ‘Too Tough’ is a near-disastrous masterpiece that somehow manages to sound like the hugest and most understated thing ever at the same time. Then, to conclude, you give me ‘Strange’ and cause my palm to meet my forehead faster than I can say, ‘That is the worst opening line to any song, ever’ with ‘When everyone was doing drugs, we were just doing love’. But this hideous awkwardness is also why I’ve always preferred you over your prettier, cleverer, more critically-lauded older sibling, and when it’s melded to a melody good enough to weaken Billy Corgan’s knees, who really cares?
It’s been great meeting up with you, old friend, even if your blemishes are clearer now and your wrinkles more visible, even if, like me, you’re far too much in thrall to a decade when you were still in nappies, or diapers as you would have it. I do wish, though, that your parents would hurry up and give birth to your successor……
With Affection only slightly tempered by your truly shocking lyrics,