The Big Pink

Future This

by Dave Bloom

18 January 2012

This buzz band downplays the shoegaze on its sophomore effort and ends up with an unsubtle, but massive and catchy electronic pop album.
 
cover art

The Big Pink

Future This

(4AD)
US: 16 Jan 2012
UK: 16 Jan 2012

“I wanna be great, I wanna be adored,” sings Robbie Furze on the Big Pink’s sophomore effort, Future This, invoking a guitar-drenched classic by the Stone Roses. The funny thing is that Furze and his creative partner, Milo Cordell, spend most of the album trying to distance themselves from the common lineage they share with the Roses that they established on their debut.

On said debut, the modestly-titled A Brief History of Love, these guys scarcely looked up from their guitar pedals to trigger the next drum loop and deliver an indelible hook before diving back into the echo and fuzz. The tunes had pop appeal for miles, sure, but Furze and Cordell let their morning glory choruses ride under a lush thicket of distortion on urban hymns like “Velvet” and “Frisk” (it was envigorating—spiritualizing, you might even say).

On Future This, the Big Pink don’t just downplay the shoegaze tendencies, but the live instruments, in general. The band’s immense and mostly beat- and synth-driven 2009 hit “Dominos” serves as a general template here, with its repeating “o” earworm (“These girls fall like dominos! / Dominos!”) even recurring in a direct descendent, the album’s first single (“Stay gold! / Gold!”). “Stay Gold” won’t stick in your head any less than its Nicki Minaj-sampled ancestor, but it’s a sequel without the rough edges. “Dominos” was criticized in some quarters as misogynistic (“As soon as I love her, it’s been too long / And I really love breaking your heart”), but that was a hangup to resolve on the way to cranking it in your car. The sexual politics are just problematic enough to make you listen to it repeatedly, if only to be sure that you don’t feel bad about listening to it repeatedly. “Stay Gold”, by contrast, is all feel-good sentiment like “forgive your lovers, but don’t forget their names /and let their spirit remain”, so you can go right to guilt-free blasting. I’d rather chew on some ambiguity than choke on positivity, personally, but it’s hard to deny “Stay Gold” as ear-catching pop, nonetheless.

Anyway, ambiguity isn’t the goal on Future This, nor is musical economy. As Furze sings on “Jump Music”, “silence is torture” for him and Cordell. They’re maximalists who aren’t interested in how many new musical turns they can explore per second, but in decking out every verse, chorus, and bridge with another drum loop, another layer of keyboard drone. Thus, the Laurie Anderson sample in “Hit the Ground (Superman)” isn’t left alone long enough to register as the backbone to the song. Instead, the vocal rhythm track of “O Superman (For Massenet)” is reduced to an inspirational kernel in much the same way that Anderson’s take on fear and American militarism is whittled down to a straightforward existentialist sentiment: there’s no Superman to catch us when we fall.

The near-constant musical excess on Future This might steer the album into audio fatigue territory, if not for the distinct song structures at the core of these tracks — particularly the choruses. The busy rhythm tracks and synth hits underlying the 6/8 of “The Palace” don’t stand a chance of getting in the way of the sing-along at the song’s heart (which kicks of with the nifty, Aaron Neville-defying line, “Tell it like it isn’t”). When Furze and Cordell fall back on their guitar-oriented roots on “1313”, the shred and whine only underscore Furze’s soaring into his register’s upper reaches for the refrain. 

It’s only at the end of the album—after a trio of songs that are all hook and no heart and a recovery on a gonzo title track with sci-fi lyrics about love running faster than time and purple leaves on golden trees—that the Big Pink rein things in a bit. On closer “77”, the band approximates U2 in heartfelt ballad mode for a relatively spare meditation on Cordell’s brother’s suicide. It’s a pity they didn’t choose to intersperse more quiet moments like “77” throughout, but Future This is constructed to jam your head full of mountainous pop thrills, not to give you a lot of room to think about them. It largely succeeds.

Future This

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