[20 January 2011]
ZUT ALORS! Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit Prozac. There I was, Martini in hand, skipping merrily toward Freddy Ruppert’s second album, anticipating fizzy retro electro chills, when I quickly found myself knee deep in A&E-level miserablist melancholia. Why didn’t anybody warn me? New Love‘s unlucky 13 tales of woe brought every broken heart, every shattered dream I’d ever had rushing back to haunt me, taunt me, and throw rotten fruit in my face. CURSE YE GODS!
Dear reader: Don’t be fooled by the giddy title. This is no Bieber-esque Valentine platter for Sunday picnics, holding hands in the rain, and sweetly bickering over who should put the phone down first. This is a time for mourning love deceased. It’s blood, sweat, tears, horror, jealousy, regret, schizophrenia, bitterness…and more tears. Let’s just say these songs won’t sweeten any cutesy rom-com soundtrack any time soon.
Yes, New Love is a heavy mutha. The sense of broken hope and the heartache of betrayal rarely subsides. From the opening hair-blowing, tinnitus-inducing synth stabs of “The Days Will Get Long Again”, there is a momentum of inescapable dread. It falls like a blizzard in the wilderness without relief or slapstick skits involving banana skins. New Love is effectively one arm reaching, unflinchingly, out of the fog. The question being: Do they want to pull you in or pull them out? Is it better to have loved and lost or never had loved at all? Umm, I’m not sure, but hey—you should go first…
In fact, if you’ve ever wondered what Joy Division’s third symphony would’ve sounded like, look no further. Having dipped their toes into electro elegies with “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Ceremony”, New Love presents a compelling what-if scenario. Ruppert’s intimate, swallow-the-microphone vocals and raw, solemn poetry really do demand a double-take. You’ll even get a chance to dust off your Ian Curtis dodgeballin’ jogger dance on “And When You Kiss Me” with its gloriously unhinged “Transmission”-style riff. “The doors I thought were closed but never ever locked / The way you kissed me / Seals my fate.” Eeek! As with Curtis, the twitching tick between desperation and romance elevates one heart’s struggle to heroic heights.
New Love clearly works through those five classic stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. The gang’s all here. Anger? “Taurean Nature’s” chorus basically spells “Fuck you”; “Everyone that comes after you / I will love them more than you / Just to spite you” tellingly ends “Forever Yours”. Like much of New Love, it’s hymnal, confessional, and would sound amazing in a church. Ditto “Until You Are Alone Again”, basically The Sorrows of Young Werther recited over a grave wave “Many Rivers to Cross”. The anger peaks, though, on the brooding “Bare Bones”. Ruppert, now drained and clearly cracking apart, laments: “I’ve been losing too long.” It’s darn spooksome, cloaked in Phantom of the Opera shadows, and erupts into a dogfight with a bullish “Get me out of this body / Love keep it away from me.” Rough translation? ‘Hide the knives’.
The closest salvation gets is during the guest spots from Zola Jesus’ Nika Roza and Tearist’s Yasmine Kittles. The latter’s duets sweep like lost souls serenading each other from beyond the grave, chained in opposing plots beneath Père Lachaise. “Winter’s Year” is the stronger of the pair. A huggably hearty pop melody, synths twinkling like dying stars, with Ruppert pining like Curtis’ ghost entombed eternally inside the midnight hour radio. “I Am Not What You Want”, meanwhile, is more feeling than song, a collage of cracked conversations drawn from memory. “I can’t be what you want me to be,” stings Kittles.
Nika Roza’s appearances leave the greatest impression, though. She appears at pivotal points on the record, when Ruppert has seemingly reached the lowest low. She strides to the stage like a Superhero, towering from the top of the mountain, resplendent in Wonder Woman cape, backlit like some redemptive angel. Her tracks are comparatively uptempo. “Chin Up” is almost a 4/4 disco inferno—“I need you right you now / I need you”, bellows Roza passionately, and the world is saved! The commanding, heartstopping “Only In Time” is equally flooring: “My own footsteps meet up with yours.” Damn, I gotta get my heart broken more often…
This story concludes with a flashing sigh of acceptance. The titular malady feels like the tiniest glimmer of light, the healing hands of a new day. Set to the rhythm of a departing train, it pulls our wounded narrator away from the battlefield—“Light a candle for us.” It’s a deeply mournful sound, and you wonder whether it’s genuine optimism or surrender, letting go of the rope, choosing to fall rather than hang on anymore. Let’s hope its destination is ‘Partytown, USA’ hey?
Young hearts should approach New Love cautiously. Unless, of course, you cherish crying in the shower whilst fully dressed and emptying a bottle of Whiskey. Bring your game face, and keep your dukes up. This ‘un strikes for the heart. Despite a minor quality slip two-thirds in, many will find solace in its sadness. It’s a requiem for lost dreams, a ‘melancholy dolly’, but, crucially, Ruppert packs a killer knack for melody, too. “New Orleans” particularly deserves to scale the toppermost of the poppermost in a future age alongside Tearist’s “Headless” and Zola Jesus’ “Sea Talk”. New Love, in fact, supports suspicions that the fiendish trio (alongside Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart, who helped decorate this cruel beauty) have brokered some nefarious pact at the crossroads for such pretty poison. These are desperate confessionals born in empty rooms but with full, gushing hearts. Just remember in the darkest hour that you’ll always find hope—just keep following that mirrorball star. Lovers should embrace New Love but heed Dylan Thomas’ advice: “Though lovers be lost, love shall not…”