Think of your local Sam Goody as a pickup bar. You make some small talk, meet a CD, mess around. Before you know it, the two of you are shacked up. Nothing can come between you. You’re a couple.
You may fall in love with a CD for many reasons: because it turns you on or makes a good drinking partner or just wraps you in a warm, comfortable blanket. Sooner or later, however, you’re going to cheat on your CD. No matter how many times you tell it, “I’ve only got ears for you,” the sad truth is that the day is coming when you’ll put that very same disc back in its jewel case and move on.
Not that I’m any different. Love ’em and leave ’em, that’s what I always say. Still, I’ve always tended to love my CDs one at a time. Why, I know people (some of them married!) who juggle dozens of discs at once, though how they live with the guiltor find time to sleepI’ll never know. But not me: I’m a serial monogamist.
Or I was until a couple of weeks ago, when fate brought two CDs into my life, both of them so utterly fabulous in their own ways that I couldn’t help but fall in love with both of them. Snow Patrol’s When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up is an invigorating hybrid of catchy Britpop and good old American lo-fi indie pop; Migala’s Arde is a tasty combo of slo-core, lush Spanish romanticism, and noirish found-sound experimentation.
When It’s All Over is the kind of CDnot terribly bright, but very easy on the earsthat you can love for its tunes but never have to worry about having a serious conversation with. When you bring home a Hefner disc, all it wants to do is talk, talk, talk, right? Well, with the new Snow Patrol, you don’t even have to pretend to listen to the words; it’s all looks, hooks, and irresistible melodies.
Like Oasis, Snow PatrolGary Lightbody on guitar and vocals, Mark McClelland on bass, and Jonny Quinn on drums, all Belfast lads transplanted to Scotlanddoesn’t make much of an effort to hide its influences. In fact, the only way the band could be more obvious about its musical forerunners would be to change its name to Sebadoh Jr. But if Lightbody is a little too Lou Barlow for his own goodcheck out the moody “If I’d Found the Right Words to Say,” which features a menacing bass line and some haunting piano by Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdochhe more than makes up for it with his uncanny ability to craft catchy four-minute pop songs with great riffs and big singalong choruses.
The best tunes on When It’s All Over avoid the Son of Sebadoh vibe altogether. “Black and Blue” starts out in a Barlowish vein but quickly transmogrifies into a monster guitar rave-up that would do the Stooges proud. And “Batten Down the Hatch” looks to Brian WilsonSnow Patrol even name-checks him in the songfor its hushed vocals and positively lovely melody.
The same goes for the lush and beautiful “An Olive Grove Facing the Sea,” whose choir- and trumpet-laden chorus is a must-hear for anyone who thinks he or she is immune to mush.
One of the hallmarks of a good band is that it can beat you over the head with brainless lyrics and somehow make you like the song. So it goes with When It’s All Over’s opening track, “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again,” which features Carslike techno guitars and a peppy chorus (see song title) that gets repeated about 9,000 times. These guys may not be Mensa candidatescheck out “Make Love to Me Forever,” which makes “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again” sound positively postdoctoralbut who needs brains when you’ve got a groove as infectious as the one in “Ask Me How I Am”?
With its sleek production and throwaway lyrics, When It’s All Over is an uncomplicated, vaguely shallow good time. Migala’s Arde (“It Burns”), on the other hand, is a moody, tempestuous affairyou know, lots of fights followed by passionate lovemaking. Led by vocalist/guitarist/special-effects wizard Abel Hernández, Migala has already seduced hipsters worldwide: The group backed up Will Oldham when he toured its native Spain, recorded a 7-inch for the Sub Pop Singles Club, and has been praised by such indie icons as Red House Painters main man Mark Kozelek and former Belle and Sebastian bassist Stuart David.
The 14 songs on Arde justify the fanzine-level buzz, veering from the jaunty instrumental “Primera Parada” to the spaghetti-westernish “El Caballo del Malo,” which features some really cool guitar licks and is topped with funky distortion that should sound out of place but doesn’t. Spanish flavors predominate, but the murky Feeliesesque guitar and hushed vocals that open “Suburbian Empty Movie Theatre” make it clear that the members of Migala have been listening to plenty of American indie rock.
Arde also has its fair share of beautifully melancholic slow burns, all of which demonstrate that, in Hernández, Spain has found its answer to Leonard Cohen. I particularly like “Fortune’s Show of Our Last,” in which Hernández’s voice is complemented by the wonderful backing vocals of Irene Rodríguez Tremblay, and the cinematic “Times of Disaster,” in which Hernández’s fatalistic vocals are punctuated by an oddly effective array of found sounds including squealing wheels, car crashes, and movie dialogue. But the best showcase on Arde for Hernández’s smoother-than-God croon is “The Guilt,” which is so melodramatically string-laden that you’ll be tempted to call it pretentious. Ah, but you’ll be wrong, because, as one Google-translated Web site so aptly puts it, “Migala can be labeled as pretenciosos, but only to eyes of a mediocre one.”
OK, so I’m a duplicitous, CD-swapping scumbag, but I’m going to change, I swear. I’m going to cast away temptation and remain faithful to both When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up and Arde. We’ll be together, just the three of us, a happy ménage à trois, whileman, just check out the track list on that
new Japancakes disc… CP