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Music From The Big Pink, Not To Be Confused With Levon Helm

Written by Nick Leitzke

To really like a work of art requires nothing more than the inexplicable. Maybe something in our brains is wired a certain way for us to say one thing is good while another is not. Maybe this wiring is the effect of genetic coding, or sociological upbringing, or something else beyond our control as we grow and metamorphose into individual audience members. Whatever the case, we observe. As a result of our observation, we feel. This is what gives us the authority to say one work of art is superior to another. It is a natural process that defies explanation. After following this process twice in the last two weeks, it is only natural for me as a human being to say that ‘A Brief History of Love’ by the Big Pink is a far superior album to ‘Acolyte’ by Delphic.

In an earlier entry here at murmur DC I reviewed Delphic’s album ‘Acolyte,’ the first new release of 2010 that I listened to. You can read the review by following the links below.

murmur DC – Album Review: Delphic – Acolyte

Here’s the gist: I didn’t care for it. I believe my exact words were, “I was hoping it would latch onto me with its jaws and not let go until the last second ticked away.” I didn’t expect ‘Acolyte’ to be the greatest thing since I discovered Sleater-Kinney. Moments like that happen only a few times in a lifetime and not everyone can enjoy that honor. I just wanted something, you know, good. ‘Acolyte’ wasn’t what I wanted. And so I moved on with that disappointment and checked off the next items on my list.

The Big Pink are a London-based group whose album ‘A Brief History of Love’ came out last year. If you read their review at Amazon you’ll find in a single sentence seven comparisons to other sounds. Whenever someone drops a “sounds like meaningless band crossed with another meaningless band” comparison, or a “combines the adverb adjective of noun with the adverb adjective of other noun” comparison, I tune out. Let the music speak for itself. If you’re going to smash seven “adverb adjective noun” comparisons into a single sentence whose only purpose is to tell me the Big Pink play really good music, just let me listen to the music. But the music on ‘A Brief History of Love’ does speak for itself. The Big Pink do everything I had hoped Delphic could. Subsequently, and very rightly so, ‘A Brief History of Love’ has been in stiff competition for play-time in my car. Julian Casablancas is their biggest for right now, but that’s beside the point.

What it boils down to is inexplicable, but I think I have a glimpse. I expected synth-pop with Delphic, and I got synth-pop. There was just nothing beneath it, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. When I listen to music I want to hear something beneath the sound. I need to feel as though I’m standing on solid ground as I listen to music, and I never had that feeling with Delphic. I felt like I was tethered to something, like a kite, or a balloon effigy of Nick Leitzke like in ‘8½.’ The more I think about it the more I realize it’s because the sound lacked something underneath. I don’t expect fuzzy Jesus and Mary Chain rock from every band I listen to, nor do I expect rolling Iron Maiden guitar riffs (although those do help). The sound needs a foundation, something that has bite, and for every great band and even every great album that foundation comes from a different source.

‘Acolyte’ didn’t sound complete. It was the sort of music that I want to fill the spaces. I want it to fill every nook and cranny in my apartment, from the space between my shower curtains to the space between my TV trays boxed in their little corner between the couch and the record shelf. The sound lacked a bottom, and it wasn’t worth the air it vibrated through.

When I listen to ‘A Brief History of Love’ I get the same synth-pop origins, but the sound rests on something. A powerful pair of jaws has me, like a snapping turtle, or a barracuda, and I’m going to sit here listening to this music as I write or as I drive or as I play Resident Evil 4 and when the last second ticks away I’ll be different, because that’s what good music does to you. It leaves a bite scar that never fades. I can sit here talking about how “As soon as I love her it’s been too long” is one of the best opening lines I’ve ever heard, or how this is music you can get lost in for forty-eight minutes while you enjoy being alive. I can tell you for another regurgitated time that I really like ‘A Brief History of Love,’ but that should be understood by now. I’ll just let the music speak for itself. And it will.

Posted by admin   @   31 January 2010

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