Got chills, they’re multiplying. Yes, Wales’ the School remember when rock was young, when rock ‘n’ roll meant gulping Coca Cola, hickies, teasing your beehive, and giggling. Before all that naughty filth and debauchery. Uh-huh, waaaay before. The only thing the School will be doing in a car is dancing on the roof, Travolta-stylee. Let’s just say Loveless Unbeliever wants to make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day.
Whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty person will determine how much you’ll enjoy Loveless Unbeliever. The School have set the controls on Marty McFly’s Delorean for 1960 and returned resplendent with bagfuls of pining, eyelash fluttering and sighing. But like Doc Brown’s rusty time-travellin’ marvel, the quality dial is kinda wonky.
Half of the album is tip-top pop Valhalla that’ll sound as chipper in 2060 as it would’ve in 1960. The opening “Let It Slip” is Exhibit A, the toppermost of the poppermost. It so stealthily encapsulates everything they’re aiming for (i.e. Motown via Cardiff) it almost makes the remainder redundant in a single strike. It has Liz Hunt’s light-as-air angelic tones, handclaps to go-go and the sweeping surge of vintage Supremes amidst the teary lament “If you ever leave me would you go straight to her?” It’s some kind of bliss. Ditto “I Want You Back”, pop so perfect you’d swear it was a cover. A whale-sized chorus which could fill any grey sky with a Disney kaleidoscope and pop Mr. Bluebird on your shoulder to boot. Mariachi horns. Xylophones. It’s the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle hangin’ on a heartbreakin’ hook, “Now and then I think too much about you”. Zing! Went the strings of my heart.
Meanwhile the contagiously jolly “Valentine” will have you singin’ and dancin’ in the rain whilst onlookers will look baffled and eventually call security. Then there’s “Shoulder”, the movie song they’d play when our two star cross’d lovers sing to each other whilst oceans apart (in split screen obviously), gazing into the heavens all forlorn and doe-eyed dreamy.
The thing about when rock was young was, well, it was all enchanting and that but… it was a bit dull. Some of these toons are basically identikit kitsch navel gazing and yup, “twee”. The closest the School get to rockin’ out is “Can’t Understand”‘s 1-2-3-4 ending, which by comparison, is pure AC/DC. All this “I’ve been waiting for so long and he’s still the only one” true-love-waits moping gets pretty frustrating. “Is He Really Coming Home?” I doubt it, love. “It’s been such a long time baby”, pfft seriously!?! Now quit gawping out of that window waiting for Prince Charming. Let’s face it, he’s probably out shagging that tart from the estate. Get your glad rags on, glam yourself up, neck that cocktail and report to the dancefloor!
[Ponders] There may be self esteem issues to blame. On “Can’t Understand”, our heroine agonizes, “I can’t understand why you wanna see me more”. Then on “Is It True”, it’s “Is it true what they say ‘cos I don’t wanna be alone” to “Shoulder”‘s “I won’t be content until you show me that you mean it”. Do you want someone to sit with you love? “Tell me that you’ll think about it / She doesn’t understand you baby”. Oh is that the time? Taxi! There is such a fine line between “I’d do anything to hold you / Let me in your life” and “Put the f*cking lotion in the basket!”. There’s also amusingly a song entitled…(lightning strikes)...“The One Who Left Me!” “I have no time for the one who left me”, protests Hunt. ‘Fess up love, he’s buried under the patio ain’t he?
There are some intriguing pointers to the future, though. “All I Wanna Do”, a smoochy last waltz, ends with a wink and “...let’s go home”, which suggests it is business time. “The One Who Left Me”, meanwhile, is feisty like Nancy Sinatra, with hips ‘n’ swagger. Yet it’s the closer “I Don’t Believe In Love” which really demands attention. After what’s preceded it, this Spector-fried spat is like peeking behind the curtain. It’s the realization that love is an illusion, a fugazi. “We don’t believe in love / I don’t need anyone”, she sings. It’s a classy, blinder of a finale. It could bring a tear to a glass eye, etc.
Loveless Unbeliever has flashes of genius and is clearly made for lovers, not for gnarly, embittered music critics. But oh, the pains of being “pure at heart”! It’s so wholesome and sweet, it may drive you to drink. Seriously, there’s even a song (which sounds like ‘60s Cliff Richard) called “I Love Everything”. Everything?? Even war, racism, poverty and Simon Cowell? Wake up people! Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, the School are perfect in EP-sized chunks. They can pen timeless pop, but, and I’m not suggesting they tour with Mötley Crüe, they could definitely do with a big night out. Not electrifying then, but hella good for Summer Lovin’.