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Hey nostalgia fans - remember chillwave? It was only a couple of years ago that we were wowed by a selection of bands, usually from the west coast of America, seemingly in thrall to China Crisis and Madonna B sides. Small Black were part of this - I remember they had one really good song. In my review of their last record I said that at then aged 38 I had a stand up row with a friend (aged 43) about who was the best, Washed Out or Toro Y Moi. Ha! we were ridiculous back then - soooooooooo 2011.
Anyway here come Small Black with their new one, and from the press release they have become a four piece band (yawn) and have moved somewhat beyond the hazy home recordings of their debut. I’d like to one day read about a band doing something a bit different, sacking all original members, creating a follow up album using nothing but euphoniums. What we have, as always, is a polishing of the sound of their debut. It’s the type of ‘80’s sound that has been made successful by the likes of M83 and School of Seven Bells. It’s bland, melodic and safe. It does the opposite of what ‘80s groups did.
The amount of cocaine around in those days tended to mean that bands made madcap decisions like OMD’s foolish but brilliant ‘Dazzleships’, Blancmange’s frazzled lunacy pop or the entire career of The Associates. This album, alas, sounds like it was produced with one eye on the bank balance. At best it recalls the hazy ‘80s pop of Wild Nothing, ‘Sophie’ particularly is as smooth and ‘80s as Curt Smith’s forehead and alarmingly enjoyable. ‘Breathless’ is like an Ibiza-bound Depeche Mode yet ‘Proper Spirit’ takes the whole ‘80s thing too far. It sounds like an episode of The Chart Show from 1986, all fairlight synths, big hair, suited and booted. Preposterous music and derivative to the point of plagiarism but I’m sure to many a kind of nostalgic aural bliss. Meanwhile, on the cover there are two nude people cuddling on top of a ladder by a small lake while a crocodile sits beneath them. Inexplicable.
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