Everybody Knows It’s Gonna Happen Only Not Tonight
US: 9 Feb 2010
UK: 8 Feb 2010
It can be said that every artist wields the influences of those who came before him or her. In the case of the Go Find—essentially the one-man band of Belgium’s Dieter Sermeus—its influences are worn quite proudly. The Go Find’s third album, the rather unwieldy-sounding Everybody Knows It’s Gonna Happen Only Not Tonight, is what you’d get if the Swedish alternative pop group Peter, Bjorn and John were playing at one end of a football stadium and French popsters Phoenix were playing at the other end… at the same time. The Go Find would easily meet you somewhere in the middle, being not quite as baroque as the former and not as spiky as the latter. However, with its strumming acoustic guitars and keyboard flourishes, and an almost power pop sensibility to its songcraft, the Go Find somehow sounds familiar—one more Europop band mining a bedroom indie pop sensibility—and yet wholly distinct in a simultaneous space. That’s thanks in large part to Sermeus’s almost-whispered, whiny-but-deep vocals that resemble a dispirited Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo) or Billy Corgan, and the ablum’s airy, lilting production with occasional female harmonies that strives to rise above its obvious influences.
Stitched together during the course of six months in studios in Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium, Everybody Knows It’s Gonna Happen Just Not Tonight is, at its core, an album that effortlessly invites one in with its attention to pop detail and craft. It starts out with the title track, which is soft and spacious with an icy backing keyboard melody, then slowly builds to a crescendo of saxophones, the only real touch of ornamental instrumentation found on the record. The song sets up the album’s theme of lost innocence and nostalgia with its choral lyric of “Let me take you back / To the ‘90s / When we were teens … With secret desire”.
“Everybody Knows…” is an audacious and soaring start to the record, even at five-and-a-half minutes long, but the album’s true highlight comes three tracks deep with “It’s Automatic”. The song boasts a towering double-harmonic chorus that could have been written by Todd Rundgren during his tenure in latter day Utopia, and the refrain effortlessly gets trapped in your head from the very moment that you hear it. Lyrically, however, the tune rubs a little close to the Cure’s “Friday, I’m in Love” with lines like “Monday morning, I’m not able / I don’t think it’s gonna work / Friday evening, I am ready / But sleepy I’m not going out”.
Which brings us to “One Hundred Percent” two songs later, a darker and more brooding track, where the Go Find’s Peter, Bjorn and John influence really comes to light. The song is a duet between Sermeus and an unknown, new female vocalist simply named Karo, and the duo exchanges verses in the exact same way that Peter Morén and Victoria Bergsman trade off lyrics in “Young Folks”. All that is missing from “One Hundred Percent” is the whistling. Karo has the same vocal inflection as Bergsman, and the song is the only real spot on the album where Sermeus seems to be following a true template to replicate the success of what has come before him in the Europop sphere. It’s jarring.
Alas, that’s not the only way that Sermeus seems to be standing on the shoulders of giants on Everybody Knows…. Even the choice of song titles could be sloppily revealing of where Sermeus finds his inspiration. The aforementioned “One Hundred Percent”, for instance, also shares the name of a Sonic Youth song. “Stay” has been used by everyone from Shakespears Sister to Madonna to Pink Floyd to Sugarland to Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. “Heart of Gold” is also, more famously, a Neil Young title. The Arcade Fire used up “Neighborhood” repeatedly on Funeral. “Love Will Break Us Up” is only a hair away from being “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. That’s not to mention that “Cherry Pie” has already been done by, um, the ‘80s hair metal act Warrant. These titles give the sense that the album was tossed off quickly, with little regard, when it’s clear that there was a fair amount of attention that went into its making—at least at its front end.
The album is so full of detail and whimsical scope that there’s not one truly weak tune to be found on it—even “One Hundred Percent” has its appeal—as every song seems to have its place, and gently fits into Sermeus’s themes of wistfulness and longing. At the same time, with the possible exceptions of the title track and “It’s Automatic”, there are no scorching high points either. Everything runs together for the most part, smoothly and with a consistent sheen, and that really prevents Everybody Knows It’s Gonna Happen Just Not Tonight from being a perfect pop breakthrough. The momentum, too, is killed in the second half, which tends to feature shorter songs (or, at the very least, they feel shorter) that, despite being honed to a delightful sugar-coated perfection, clip through at a breakneck pace, as though Sermeus has run out of ideas and is just trying to get the album done.
What’s left then feels more like an homage to bands of today and yesteryear than an honest attempt to create teenage symphonies to God for the 21st century. Despite sounding unforced, one wishes that the Go Find had put a little more elbow grease into creating melodies of pure pop bliss that would truly sound anthemic. As it stands, if you like the continental sounds of electronic Europop, you’ll probably find much to admire in Everybody Knows…. It’s a quick fix, and will tide you through to the next release by one of the bigger, well-known indie pop bands alluded to in the first paragraph. If one thing that Everybody Knows… proves, though, it’s that Dieter Sermeus wears long sleeved shirts—long enough to wear the styles of what came before him and what’s currently fashionable on them, while trying to find his own distinct, personable style. That might sound paradoxical, and it is, making the Go Find a moderately interesting enigma, one that makes this disc worthy of revisitation, but ultimately a puzzle that causes Everybody Knows It’s Gonna Happen Just Not Tonight to fall a little short of the mark.
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