I’ve opined on these Web pages how it is that there seems to be an infinite amount of songs called “Heaven”. I can think of probably five bands or musicians off the top of my head that have used this as a song title, ranging from the Psychedelic Furs to Depeche Mode to Bryan Adams, and that’s three right there. I suppose it was probably only inevitable that a band would come along and call itself Heaven, and here it is. (Granted, a quick troll through AllMusic.com reveals that past acts have used the name.) For a band that purports to make celestial sounds, Heaven sure wind up sounding a lot like the Jesus and Mary Chain, albeit a less abrasive Jesus and Mary Chain, but I suppose that the sonic squall of such a band would be appealing to many (and I know a fellow PopMatters writer with an infatuation with the Darklands album). And, so, Heaven. This Brooklyn-based outfit is the product of Matt Sumrow of Dean and Britta, the Comas and Ambulance LTD, and Mikey Jones of Swervedriver, the Big Sleep and Snowden. Both men played backing parts in Adam Franklin’s Bolts of Melody band in the studio and on the road; rounding out the group is Ryan Lee Dunlap of Fan-Tan on keyboards. You might be inclined to think, based on that piece of information, that Heaven is a spin-off band. However, Heaven’s debut LP Telepathic Love should cement their reputation as a bona fide outfit to a degree. It’s not perfect, as the group name might lead you to believe, but it is a great taster of a classic British ‘80s rock sound.
It might strike you as odd that Heaven wind up sounding a lot like JAMC, considering the band has, in advance of the album’s release, posted a Soundcloud link to a covers EP (read to the end, it’s linked below) where the group barrels through songs by unlikely suspects as New Order, the Kinks and Fleetwood Mac. If anything, that just shows that Heaven have an understanding and love for all things in pop’s past repertoire, even if these covers only sound vaguely reminiscent of their work on Telepathic Love. This love of a classic sound is evident from the very first cut and lead-off single, “Colors in the Whites of Your Eyes”, which manages to sound psychedelic and remotely JAMC-y, but without the entirely fuzzed out sonics of a Psychocandy. Still, it’s a Nuggets-y stab at ‘60s freak rock with swirling guitars and the reassuring sound of a tambourine. The druggy nature of the songwriting continues with the title track, which manages to push some toy piano into the mix, making it sound like a sort of update to that classic ‘60s girl group sound. Meanwhile, “Falling Apple” has a vaguely acoustic guitar strum to it, with atmospheric keyboards providing a wash. If anything, Telepathic Love has an interesting approach to a keyboards sound, and features willing experimentation with different types of instruments: “New Amsterdam” boast some swelling Mellotron, making it vaguely proggy.
The second half of the album is noticeably shorter than the first, with songs being more fragmentary and generally clocking in at less than three minutes. The best of the batch is the gentle ballad “Southern Rain”, which sounds a bit Mazzy Star-ish, with soft but rough vocals, an acoustic guitar and a buzzy sounding sustained keyboard chord providing backdrop. “Once the Heartbreak” has the similar feedback-y white noise of the best JAMC songs, but it seems remotely polished at the same time; yet it ends on a droning cacophony of amplifier peels. The album ends with the rather unassuming “Centuries”, which has an affecting chorus but, sadly, not much more. If there’s a flaw with Telepathic Love, it’s that it doesn’t quite push the envelope far enough: it sounds like the kind of thing that someone who likes JAMC, but hates the punishing nature of their music, would make. It does nestle nicely into Darklands territory with its drums that sound remotely programmed—much like they were on that album—but there’s still an intangible quality that’s lacking. Fuzz rock should sound fuzzy. Telepathic Love doesn’t really. Still, there are plenty of good songs to be had, even though they don’t really reach through into great territory. Telepathic Love is agreeable and not much more. Still, if you’re jonesing for that classic JAMC and don’t mind that sound being slightly more varnished and yet tinny, I have a premonition that this record might just be the thing you’re looking for. It’s somewhat heavenly, I guess.