Label Spotlight: BELLA UNION // Review: LAWRENCE ARABIA // Chant Master

May 3, 2010

It opens like cheap date at a pizza pickup window.  And then wham, harmony.  Thick, saccharine, Fab-Four harmony.  Oozing in and out of the live groove, swapping melodic stories with vintage synths and jangling guitars.

There’s a lot of talk about Lawrence Arabia and that this album should be trumpeted from the rooftops.  Given his associations with Okkervil River and his Destroyer-isms, I can see why a certain set gets all hot and bothered by these throwback melodies.  I’m not that kind of guy.  So I’ll be nice and say that there aren’t many original ideas here.  Catchy?  Yup.  Fun?  Yup.  And hey, maybe thats all you need in your life.  But I need a record that I can listen to more than twice before having exhausted its emotional and intellectual offerings.

Aukland CBD is an awkward and tense experience.  “I touched most of her body cuz I knew I could” – a great lyric that doesn’t get the musical fine-tuning it deserves, and changes tense to sing “You’re the girl of my dreams” before washing into retro lounge organ.

Apple Pie Bed is admittedly catchy as all hell, and the groove is the album’s highlight – able to insight sing-a-longs on road trips, to be sure.  If the rest of the songwriting was this strong, we’d likely have more positive praises to sing.

The Crew Of The Commodore is the only song to transcend the stylistic limitations of Chant Darling’s production.  It warrants repeat listening, speaks to our hollowed out tv memories, and musically seeks out something more evolved than 60’s rainbow rehash.

Fans of Belle & Sebastian, Destroyer, Telepathic Butterflies and New Pornographers will probably find more to latch onto than I did.  Low marks for innovation, but top marks for stylistic execution.

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