It’s been ten years since the last Death By Chocolate album, 2002’s Zap the World. Yet, with Bric-a-Brac, it sounds like the group hasn’t aged a day. Now primarily consisting of vocalist Angela Tillet, keyboardist Jez Butler, and composer Jason Frederick, Death By Chocolate delivers more of the same on their third album, without inflation. All three of their albums have been about a half-hour long and thematically similar, but like the first three studio albums by Portishead, that consistency is not a bad thing.
There is nothing else quite like Death By Chocolate. Their take on the swinging ‘60s London jet-setter style is as sweet as all of the treats listed on “The Land of Chocolate” from their eponymous debut. Even though, or possibly because she’s a little flat, the childlike voice of Tillet makes the worries of the world melt like an ice lolly on a hot summer day. On Bric-a-Brac, she still sounds like a teenager full of wonder in her stream-of-consciousness rambles and sparing melodies. The instrumentals are all sparkling slices of groovy sunshine psychedelic pop, laced with warm bass lines, saucy organ, vintage synths, and subtle drums.
This odd international assembly of fabulously appointed mods is infatuated by food, the alphabet, surrealist art, and peering into the past with rose-colored glasses. This honest passion is reflected in their albums, which are so dense with period specific references that they’re practically educational. One may easily be lulled in by Death By Chocolate’s apparent naivety, only to find they’ve learned something.
Where Tillet listed all the chocolate bars she likes and the names of Salvador Dali paintings in previous albums, two of the most striking tracks on Bric-a-Brac sees her pronounce with the appropriate accent the names of dozens of Russian spacemen on “Kosmonaut,” and she runs through facts and properties of some of the more interesting elements on “The Periodic Table.” Between the latter track and “Chemical Calisthenics” by Blackalicious, studying for your next chemistry test just became irresistibly fun. Four short tributes to famous hotels of the early ‘60s tie the album together as nicely as Lebowski’s rug. Far out.
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