[2 February 2012]
Chairlift’s 2008 debut Does You Inspire You was a proper contrary. On one hand it delivered some of the most luxurious, artful pop of the age and on the other some baffling “Is that the time? Must dash, I’ve left a knife in the fork drawer” calamity. Poor listeners didn’t know which way to turn. It was a confusing time for pop and for humanity. “Bruises” was one of the prettiest, doe-eyed duets in eons and painted the whole world with a rainbow, whereas “Territory” was the ultimate realisation of Dolores O’Riordan as an actual “Zombie-ee-ee-EE” lustful for nefarious revenge. Similarly, “Planet Health” was capable of overheating the Whoopee Machine with its “Ooh Matron!” sultriness, but then “Evident Utensil” was the malevolent “Barbie Girl” sporting a novelty fake moustache and Parisian beret. Any return to “Chez Chairlift” in 2012 would be ... well, complicated.
So hallelujah and ring-a-ding-ding if Something doesn’t wipe away tears, wipe away doubt. It not only trumps their “Hell, Yes! / Hell, No!” debut at every turn but almost makes me forgive ‘n’ forget “The Aqua Incident”. With original crewmate Aaron Pfenning having jumped ship – I don’t want to point the finger of blame, but nothing here sounds like Aqua - leaving Patrick Wimberly and Caroline Polachek at the rudder, Something is one smooooth ride on a luxury liner which rarely has you reaching for your lifejacket or sickbag.
If, as many say, genuine joy is the hardest note to master in the “Lexicon du Pop”, no one thought to inform Chairlift. At the heart of this album beats a bevy of bright-eyed, joyful and triumphant poptastic beauties. The glossy “Wrong Opinion” hugs with the hot embrace of summer sun under a perfect blue sky. “I lay my guts out on the table ... If you don’t get it / It’s fine by me”. Scoop ‘em up sister, you’re a winner! Imagine a sun-soaked “Heaven” by the Psychedelic Furs, blissed out and hazy-in-a-hammock and you’re halfway there. Ditto the spine-tingling rush of “I Belong in Your Arms”. It’s impossible not to keel over, crazy in love with wobbly knees, and surrender to its sense of romantic euphoria. Oh and the feral, orgasmic “WAH!” at 2:02 is officially “a thing of sublime musical divinity”. Elsewhere, single “Met Before” packs such a headrushin’ buzz of ecstasy, the ‘Lift should expect an early morning call from the Vice squad. Like a possessed Grace Slick bellowing “Somebody to LOOOVE”, it’s that ‘racing around a field in a poncho, hands-aloft, outta my mind on love, life, love ... and mushrooms’ feeling. Throw in some tribal drums and rose-tinted, kaleidoscopic carousels of “BABA, BABA” and the effect is “admittedly intoxicating”, Officer.
There are softer moments where you get to rest your now-smokin’ ballet slippers. The centrepiece ballad “Cool As a Fire” is bruised, majestic. “With or without you / I don’t have a choice ... I’m alive, I’m alive I know”. The dying fade of midnight embers under a blanket sky of teary stars. A proper, “That’s it, cancel everything!” sobfest à la Madonna’s “Live to Tell”. Talking of her Madgesty, the dreamy, sparkly “Take It Out On Me” is the lovechild of a Venn diagram coupling between her moody blue “Borderline” and Pet Shop Boys’ reflective “It Couldn’t Happen Here”. It also shelters what is commonly known ‘round these parts as “a killer chorus”.
Even though Something is poptasmagoric, Chairlift still heed the call of the weird and there’s mucho quirky oddness to appease the never-happy Hipster Illuminati. “Sidewalk Safari” recalls MGMT wrestling their way out of a straitjacket using only Castanets whilst the tongue-twisting, Scrabble-tastic “Amanaemonesia” proves equally slippery, funky and yes, loopy. It’s painted with the surreal wackiness of vintage Sesame Street. You can imagine a fuzzy, furry puppet in a trashcan holding court before a captivated audience of hyperactive rugrats. “Is it Amanaemonesia? Mistaken for magic!” coos Polachek whose extraordinary, voodoo vocals flutter from angelic ‘n’ poetic to androgynous ‘n’ possessed often in the same sentence. Nowhere does Polachek’s vocals get a full run of the yard than on the slinky “Ghost Tonight”, less catwalk strut, more hungry lioness spotting Bambi. Let it loose!
Something occasionally staggers, ‘tis true. After setting the bar Olympian high, anything other than “Immortal Pop Banger” seems ordinary. Sometimes you will, like a sugar-rush brat high on nougat and sodium benzoate, bang the dinner table and bellow “MORE UNICORNS! MORE RAINBOWS!”. The new Bohemia of “Frigid Spring” has “Sinead O’Connor but heavily-Prozac’d” delirium, dandelions and lens flare but feels “fluffy” betwixt such towering oaks. “Turning” meanwhile sails perilously close to the shores of Enya’s sonic cathedrals and inadvertently calls a timeout for writing your shopping list or making a brew. Luckily though, Something leaves a memorable parting gift. “Guilty As Charged” – all car engine growls and almighty, bed shakin’ rumbles - is sensual, confident and purrs like a panther. “I’m guilty as charged / Go on and punish me”. Nurse! My pills!
Something contains pop par excellence. Lush, fragrant, bright, elegant. It’s the special stuff kept locked behind the counter especially for the more discerning pop tart. It recalls that golden age in the late ‘70s / early ‘80s when fully-grown, educated adults in good shoes could still dabble in this pop malarkey and not be openly ridiculed in the street. Post-Eno Roxy Music, Bowie, Blondie, Talking Heads, Kate Bush, Carly Simon. Equally at home poolside in the sun or at a swanky, snooty “Art Happening”. A bounty of dizzy riches, emblazoned with ravishing colours, unexpected twists ‘n’ turns, blossoms of quirky melody and flourishes of wonder. But perhaps of equal importance, at no point do you suspect a bald loon may demand in a ridiculously deep baritone “Come on Barbie! Let’s go party”. Ooh-hoo-hoo.