Ian Maleney puts Land Lovers‘ second (but first as a fully-formed band) album Confidants through its paces.
Is imitation still the most sincere form of flattery? One of the central musical discourses to emerge over the past couple of years has been focused on the concept of nostalgia and musical manifestations of it. Innumerable re-issues, box sets and deluxe versions, reunion tours, cover versions of classics, greatest hits collections coming out your ears, the initial signs of pop’s complex about its past are all there. Simon Reynolds has just written a book on it called Retromania. There’s been countless back-and-forth conversations about the virtue of highly referential micro-genres like chillwave, dream-pop, etc. sparked by some comments by David Keenan in Wire. There was a great two-part article by Adam Harper for Dummy that analysed the influence of nineties R’n’B on certain modern day artists. It’s all come to something of a head with the endless re-treading of Nirvana lore in the wake of Nevermind’s twentieth anniversary. Were they the last band to really ‘cross-over’? How good were they really? What does alternative mean now? Hw alt r u?
In the end, pretty much everyone agrees that pop music is looking over it’s own shoulder more than it ever has before, both musically and critically. While it’s difficult to tell whether Land Lovers are aware of any of this kind of talk or thought, it’s not that tough to tell whether they care. The third track on the album, ‘As Low As Possible’, highlights exactly what the plan is for the rest of the record, with singer Padraic Cooney managing to go beyond reference and actually sing the hook of Joe Jackson’s 1979 smash hit, ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him?’ verbatim. The lyrics centre around the music that hits you as a kid, the “three cassettes for a tenner” offers that result in life-long obsessions, in this case Jackson, Prefab Sprout and Tears For Fears apparently. In the end though, it’s this lyrical and, more worryingly, musical quotation that really stops this album from being a work of any particular interest.
Confidants is a record obsessed with its influences in a reverential, non-critical way. Each jangly guitar and jaunty beat brings to mind English new wave pop of the late seventies and early eighties, drawing a picture of a band who spent their teenage years listening to Ian Dury tapes in their garages and trying to dress like Elvis Costello. We’re spun tales of a maudlin existence, all grey matinées and bored lovers in dead towns we don’t understand any more. The overall feeling is nostalgic, longing for a time when music made a difference to your life, when you tore gig posters down to decorate your room and made friends based on shared radio rips or reading the same magazines. The music mirrors this with chord changes, melodies and harmonies that have been played to death all over American college radio for the last twenty-five years. Cooney’s voice is weak in that “indie” way that so suits whiney little pop songs about the way things were. Not a bad thing by the way, it worked for Stuart Murdoch.
There are no major musical problems with this album, the instruments are well played, it’s all in tune, the backing vocal harmonies are all in place, the guitars shimmer and sound a little edgy when it gets loud, it’s nice. The recording isn’t the greatest but it’s far from lo-fi and it’ll sound just fine on radio. The main problem with the record is that it has nothing new to offer, no personal twist on the old aesthetic beyond a reference to the kids of Tallaght IT. It looks back without ever considering moving forward, mired in some golden age that never really happened. It won’t annoy anybody who hears it in the car, it won’t piss off parents whose kids play it too loud in their room, it won’t challenge or inspire; it’s just another layer of cream wallpaper on an already decorated wall.
Confidants will be released on Friday September 30th with a launch gig in Crawdaddy alongside Squarehead & Last Days Of 1984.