Review Summary: Apple releases the "iNeverTrustaHappySong 5S"
When Grouplove’s excellent Never Trust a Happy Song
came out in September in 2011 despite being a quintessentially summer album, one might have been able to chalk it up to bad luck; maybe there was a studio hiccup or whatever. With Spreading Rumors
coming out almost exactly two years later, there is no longer an excuse: whoever is in charge of Grouplove’s marketing is actually terrible at their job. Granted, that still hasn't stopped the band from becoming the undisputed kings of iPod-commercial-core (which is totally
an actual thing), the fact remains that it’s another missed opportunity to have a soundtrack to sunroof night drives and blurry barbecues –and that cannot be stated enough. But, hey, maybe it was an intentional move as botched release dates are not the only similarity that the two albums share: Like Apple’s product that they've helped advertise so well, Grouplove’s next go-around is largely a step to the side rather than a step forward.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The album opens up strong enough with racing pianos and a child-like fascination in jubilant fashion on “I’m With You” and doesn’t let up on the gas until about the album’s midway point. “Borderlines and Aliens” is probably one of the most experimental songs throughout the album’s thirteen tracks and it’s also one of the best, combing a pseudo-technical sounding bass line with hook after infectious hook. “Schoolboy” is the obligatory song about young love, but it ends on a genuinely funny and self-aware note as Christian Zucconi quickly stutters “I was just a schoolboy/ I got no, eh” before the song comes to an abrupt halt. That sense of humor can be found elsewhere on the album with “oh shi
t!” and “ha, yeah!” being used as subtle adlibs in the background like some sort of radio-friendly hype man.
Unfortunately, there are instances where the sense of humor completely backfires. “Hippy Hill” is the album’s clear low point and conveniently tucked at the album’s midway point. I’m sure whoever wrote the line “I’d rather be a hippy than a hipster! What?” thought they were being clever, but the end result comes off awkward, confusing, and pretty cringe-inducing. Musically, it's a rather lifeless acoustic comedown to the explosive, fun, and vibrant tunes that precede it. The album’s back-half picks itself up marginally, but never quite matches the legitimate greatness of the first –though “Didn’t Have to Go” and “Raspberry” kind of come close. On the whole, the latter songs are surprisingly reserved and *gasp
* ballad heavy which are, frankly, two terms that the band should be minimally associated with. At thirteen tracks and just over fifty minutes, limp cuts like album closer “Save the Party for Me” or the headache-inducing “Bitin’ the Bullet” could’ve easily been trimmed to make a more concise and breezy experience.
Then again, the fact that the songs don’t really work well as an album is probably beside the point. Grouplove and their flowery ilk typically work best tucked away on shuffled playlists of whatever’s riding the summer airwaves and that’s no exception. While it’s too sugary sweet and homogeneous to be enjoyed in one sitting and doesn't quite reach the heights of its predecessor, Spreading Rumors
is a solid collection catchy songs that –at the very least- will provide a decent soundtrack to our iPod commercials for the next year or so.