On the cover of Music Go Music’s vinyl-only 12” single Light of Love are technicolored hills stretching skyward toward a setting, monochromatic sun and a blank, black sky. It’s a cover better suited for a melodramatic release about post-apocalyptic America or something equally as convoluted. The craftily-chintzy, glossy pop that lies within stands in stark contrast to the gloomy cover. It’s not until further inspection that you realize the various peaks aren’t Hannibal-conquered hills but the silvery smooth legs of California beach dwellers, taking in the last bit of sun before heading home to their respective responsibilities and worldly cares.
This realization helps you make sense of Light of Love and Music Go Music’s luscious, succulent pop ballads. Born of Los Angeles’ bright lights and the carefree spirit of tanned twenty-somethings loitering around on O.C. beeches, Light of Love fits in with the most joyous tracks of a group like the New Pornographers, but with a surf-rock spin that would make Brian Wilson blush and Rivers Cuomo confess his latter-day sins.
For a three-song 12” single that clocks in at a little under 13 minutes, it’s incredible how much Music Go Music manage to produce. The record’s self-titled opener begins with an epic synth-string cascade that doesn’t hide its cheesiness. It’s reminiscent of Destroyer’s lo-fi Your Blues. But the immaculate strings immediately fall off in lieu of staccato, bouncing piano lines and siren-esque vocals. Yet suddenly the track gives way once again with a phasing drum roll á la the Beach Boys and kicks into a soaring surf-rock jam, complete with backing “la la la la la” vocals. The track continues to jump back and forth between these various sonic tropes before anti-climactically fading into nothingness.
Light of Love‘s schizophrenia doesn’t end with just one song. It’s the catalyst for the entire record. “I Walk Alone” explodes after “Light of Love”‘s rather dull end, with guttural war cries and jerky guitar lines. The soothing vocals that littered the previous track are replaced with snarling lines of love-strewn contempt and anger, “You surrendered unto me / You gave all your love for free / Then you left me all alone / To reap the bitter seeds you’d sown.” Though the chorus is equally grim and unsettling, it sounds vaguely like a mid-‘80s pop ballad. The song finally gives way to the same under-produced keyboards of the opener, before crescendoing to a feedback-laden end.
If all of this isn’t strange enough, the record’s closer “Explorers of the Heart” opens with a note-for-note cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On”, sullenly progressing until it too sheds its skin and becomes another astounding pop powerhouse. The track’s imagery is strong enough for Spielberg to make an adequately named Indiana Jones sequel out of it. The melody is predictably infectious, begging for repeated spins.
Music Go Music’s ability to quickly and often illogically shift tones, instrumentation, and moods on Light of Love is ultimately what makes it such a great record. But the elephant in the room is the fact that it’s just a three-song single, which actually acts as a double-edged sword. It’s yet to be seen whether Music Go Music will be able to compose an entire record that’s this concise, effective, and composed, given their rampant, jittery style. Three songs might be all they’re able to effectively do. But you can’t fault people for what they haven’t done yet, which is why Light of Love is an absolute joy and fresh release within a sometimes embarrassingly bad genre.