The Canadian Indie outfit return with their shoe-gaze edge in full force.
It has been 5 years since the release of Antisocialites back in the Autumn of 2017. The album built upon the band’s sound demonstrated in their self-titled a few years prior with the song writing elevated to new heights. The album spawned timeless singles – led by In Undertow, Dreams Tonite and Plimsoll Punks which, together, intertwined dream pop haze with the melodic nature of jangle pop.
After such a long hiatus, however, it was interesting to ponder what the natural evolution of the band’s sound would entail. On July 6th, the wait was finally over as the band dropped Pharmacist: the first taster of a new project titled Blue Rev. Standing at a little over 2 minutes long, the track teased a heavier and more heavily layered form of production of which the band had previously experimented with, but were yet to commit to entirely. The song itself bolstered an infectious verse melody with Molly Rankin’s vocal sweetness perfectly balancing the spiralling guitars enveloping the mix. The ending solo operates much like a euphoric car crash with the audible calamity reaching such heights its chaos transforms into pure bliss. Easy On Your Own? served as the album’s follow-up single though turned out to be much more of a grower compared to Pharmacist’s rush of immediate gratification. That being said, after a few listens the song still rocked just as hard with the dense instrumentation making a return.
A more singles (and months) pass by and here we finally are. Blue Rev is out. From the get to I believe the album is possibly the band’s most consistent project to date. Though their previous two records had many great tunes, it felt easy to pick out the ‘duds’ amongst the track lists compared to the more well-written cuts on each respective record. Take Antisocialites for example. Tracks such as Your Type and Hey, though decent songs, lacked the identity and complexion of the remainder of the album. Though Blue Rev does certainly have some tracks taking the edge over others, the more defined sonic styling makes the flow of the record much more streamlined. That being said, this serves as a slight double-edge as it can also bring about a sense of fatigue hearing 14 tracks in a row with such tonal similarity.
Tracks such as After the Earthquake and Pressed breathe life back into the band’s jangle pop roots with their infectious guitar lines and toe-tapping beats. The former possesses one of the best hooks in the track-list and middle-part which explodes in such an adrenaline fuelled manner after a sombre electric piano passage. Pressed is still good feels slightly more like a left-over from The Smith’s debut record with a vocal melody also teetering far too much on Morrissey’s influence for the song to fully fledge an identity. Speaking of Influence, Many Mirrors sees Rankin’s voice most alike My Bloody Valentine’s own Belinda Butcher’s through a sweet and soft delivery which, surprisingly, works wonders for the band. The tune itself is beautiful with a head bobbing melody all throughout.
Very Online Guy sees the band both interjects some humour into the lyrics as the song’s narrative describes the actions of someone who is probably spending way too much time on his phone. The song suffers from a slightly weak hook however yet maintains its shoe-gaze soaked sound through clever integration of the synth’s into the mix. The synths make a grand return on Velveteen which serves as one of my favourite cuts from the record. The chugging guitars in the verse contrast the blaring synths on the chorus in perfect fashion. The chorus though simple, is so infectious it will get you asking ‘who is she is ‘ even long after the song is over. Tile by Tile follows which is, oddly, instilled with a sense of melancholy through its lyrical content. It details lost love but seems surrounded with a metaphorical mist as the enigmatic humdrums of Molly’s character in the song seems forever distracted by the desire for longing once again.
Pomeranian Spinster displays Blue Rev at its most energetic. From the get go, the song holds down the pedal to 1000 miles an hour and doesn’t slow down until it is suddenly over. Though it is not one of my favourite cuts, the shear noise the track emits is admirable as it sees the band reach its most ‘shoe-gazey shoe-gaze’ thus far. Bored in Bristol sounds like a blend between Party Police and Dreams Tonite with its simple structure and beautifully tinged chorus. The track is probably the most immediate to digest as I admit it is not much of a grower. In being so, the song does not have too much to unpack in terms of production of songwriting therefore can grow a little tiresome after so many listens. Lottery Noises is the penultimate track and again serves as one of the album’s high points. The instrumental passage in the song’s middle with the ‘ah ah ah ahs’ are truly satisfying to listen to – especially when that one guitar chord strikes in time with Rankin’s delivery. The whole song is wonderful. Fourth Figure ends things on a dreamy send off with its bittersweet brevity feeling almost like an epilogue in the track-list. It seems to cool the album’s steam in time for you to replay the whole thing all over again.
The true standard track on Blue Rev has to be Belinda Says which might possibly be one of the band’s greatest outputs already. The lyrics are imbued with a nostalgia which, oddly enough, seems to accurately capture the essence of life itself. This grandiose nature is further mirrored through the song’s roaring production which seems to be at the album’s very best on this track. Interestingly, I did wonder if the title was perhaps a reference to Belinda Butcher but I sure got my Belinda’s mixed up as it is indeed Belinda Carlisle and Heaven is a place on Earth which is instead referenced, but anyway, enough of the genius.com trivia…
Overall, Blue Rev feels like a warm hug of a record which is extremely pleasant to listen to albeit a little one-dimensional on an album play through. The individual merit of each song is undeniable but of course after each track, it can be a little tiring to progress through such similar songs in such a short time. The band also has a hard time writing strong hooks on this record with not as nearly as many ‘anthems’ on this record in comparison to Antisocialites. That being said, no particular song ever overstays its welcome with its rocking brevity a key factor behind Blue Rev’s ear worm infection.
Favourite Tracks: Easy On Your Own?, Many Mirrors, Velveteen, Belinda Says, Lottery Noises
Worst Track: Tom Verlaine