[29 March 2010]
The third record is almost always a sure misstep. On a second release, it still works to just repeat the formula from the debut, especially if it was celebrated. Yet the third is “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. You can cut ties from your previous, established sound and go into a new direction. Or there is the option of greatly expanding upon it at the risk of alienating your fan base and seeming too ambitious (the Strokes). Or you can choose number three: do neither, just repeat the formula from the first two records and hope it doesn’t sound too monotonous. Either way, the haters will come out. Third albums are only first-class, five-star affairs if one of the first two releases was lacking (Radiohead) or you somehow pulled off the miracle of successfully carrying out one of the previously mentioned three options (the Clash).
However, the bets aren’t entirely stacked against Love is All. Their first full-length, Nine Times That Same Song, was anything but what its title suggests. Full of arty, post-punk angst and infectious pop, the record demonstrated a rarely found knack for fusing various styles while establishing a uniquely fun and energetic sound. If their debut was a riotous youthful affair then their followup, A Hundred That Keep Me Up At Night, was a post-pop street carnival that swaggered along strewing flowers and confetti with drunken confessions, B-movie romances, and chaotic cruises.
Somehow the four-piece actually found a way to preserve the liveliness of their debut with greater focus, while lead singer Josephine Olausson continued to perfectly document the haphazard lunacy of modern life and love with lyrical precision. Ask yourself when was the last time you danced to a song about sea sickness from bad teriyaki chicken, and you get an idea of why Love is All is so cool. Their first two albums fell somewhere between female-fronted Specials, the Delta 5, and the Slits with a second-rate John Coltrane backing them. Even then, you aren’t really getting the point. There Love is All, man. Fuck comparisons.
So what option did these fair-skinned Swedes chose for album three? Deciding that will be your own decision, dear listener. However, here is a warning: things have certainly changed for the group. That being said, the differences aren’t jarring or immediately evident. Two Thousand and Ten Injuries maintains a relatively tepid pace compared to their previous efforts, but Love is All haven’t exactly mellowed either. The spacey chants of “A Side in Bed” and the ode to psychedelic ‘60s rock, “Kungen”, are semi-new directions for the band but not necessarily surprising. Even the easy-breezy, twee pop of “Never Now” isn’t far in sound from 2006’s “Turn the TV Off”. Where these tracks go slightly awry is that they come off like unfinished ideas. Previously Love is All paraded through tunes with furious confidence, but Two Thousand and Ten Injuries seems tentative in these new territories and lacks the assured commitment that has come to characterize their sound.
Two Thousand and Ten Injuries does have some damn fine moments, though. The jerky, upbeat opener, “Bigger Bolder”, chugs along with a furious bass line accompanied by those familiar horns and chiming keyboards, behind Olausson’s obsessive yelps of “hating every minute were apart”. The following track, “Repetition”, is just as playful. Beginning with muffled guitar and a stuttering drumbeat, the track builds into a lively post-punk Shangri-La’s chorus about a boy who is stealing Olausson’s heart before receding back into its squeamish, stifled energy.
Of all the tracks on Two Thousand and Ten Injuries, “Early Warnings” tows most closely to the established Love is All sound, still assuredly seeping into their exploration of a more midtempo, pop-oriented existence. Consequently, this is the best track on the album. Rehashing their youthful vigor, the track bounces along to Olausson’s confessions of a bad morning, until it explodes into an all-member vocal refrain and a slightly ironic, soulful sax solo takes over. Both exuberantly catchy and jarringly crass, “Early Warnings” hints at the new ground Two Thousand and Ten Injuries could have laid with a bit more confidence in their stride.
On its own, there isn’t much wrong with Love is All’s third release. However, side by side with their previous efforts, Two Thousand and Ten Injuries comes off slightly lacking. At most, it’s a mild misstep that is too diffident in its differences to alienate fans or even earn new ones. In a way, Love is All have survived the dreaded third LP by their very lack of commitment to either maintaining the same or exploring something different. It just isn’t as full of those bursting pop moments, spastic riffs, or Olausson’s punk poetics that many of us have grown to love. For now though, we’ll take what we can with mild delight.