Review Summary: I hope you don't mind having a bit of fun...
Despite the best efforts of a reasonably good EP and a loose string of artistic music videos, London based alt pop/electro-swing duo The Correspondents are best known for their undeniably unique live shows. Unique to the extent frontman "Mr Bruce" dresses up to resemble a mix between a mad scientist and the kind of clown that could only exist in nightmares (we hope), before incorporating treadmills and capes to spend the majority of the show in an interpretive dance of The Exorcist. As a result they've been very popular, and when you throw in some bass heavy electro-swing and High Contrast covers it almost begins to make sense.
Their debut LP seems to be a different kettle of fish altogether. Crowd-pleasing, bass heavy bangers arrive with wings clipped for the more refined circles of bedroom listening: seeing many of those Caravan Palace comparisons swept away and replaced with the comfortable plinks of a keyboard. Likewise, the occult energy driving their live presence has been extracted, spliced and reinjected in the form of dandy, over-dramatic flair. Puppet Loosely Strung
is most definitely a show
, but it wants to be a bit more refined than endless energy.
This is something the album makes very clear from the outset in the plodding yet playful opener "What Did I Do?," which spends its 3:47 teasing listeners with brief swells of what's to come between gaps in the introductory ramble. Later album highlight "Kind of Love" follows up by exemplifying a kind of swing-opera: ignoring any orchestral flourishes for bleeps and bloops, adding percussion that seems to be perpetually stumbling over itself and flying from soft to triumphant and back again with no regard for motion sickness. The album may not be a non-stop party, but it's determined to have fun.
Singles "Fear and Delight" and "Well Measured Vice" help bring in the low end rumble and more classic electro-swing bass lines. Despite being more subdued and pop-y than their feral live counterparts, there's more than enough to swing to go round and it allows them more variety than many of their contemporaries. Compare the chirpy synths and sub-bass growls of "The Last Time" with the more light-hearted "Give You Better:" a good few miles apart but we're all still dancing.
Whether Puppet Loosely Strung
is completely successful is up for question -one might say a whole album's worth of over-the-top drama is exhausting- but it takes a very surly soul to not at least be temporarily caught up in all the extravagance. The duo have done a great job in turning the madness of their live shows into a much more balanced yet still incredibly fun experience. When compared to their stage presence, this might very well be the next best thing.