[30 April 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The last time we checked in on Belgium’s the Go Find – which is essentially Dieter Sermeus and whomever he wants to play with – the band, as such, was at its most successful on a song called “It’s Automatic”, which seemed to be a cast-off Todd Rundgren pop gem. That song, taken from 2010’s Everybody Knows It’s Gonna Happen Only Not Tonight, was the highlight of that album, and I noticed that one of my friends even posted the track to Facebook. (Not sure I can take full credit for that, but it just goes to show that the song appeared to have a rather broad reach.) Well, it’s four years later, and it seems that Sermeus and company have been listening to, um, Sebadoh. And soft rock. Yes, the title of this album is taken from a classic indie rock gem, and that’s not all. There’s a track on this latest effort, Brand New Love, called “On the Rebound” and you know and I know that that’s a rather close approximation of another Lou Barlow and friends song. But there’s a certain nature to this record that is carefree and easy going, and it’s full of what I would classify as slow jamz. Basically, the Go Find should be sending Toto, Steely Dan, and the ilk a nice fat royalty check, as there’s a certain lite radio formula that this outfit seems to be reaching for. Sadly, not every attempt at this new formula is a winning one, and fans of the group might find themselves nodding off to a good chunk of this record. This is music meant for the chill-out room, not the main dance hall.
But before I get into deficiencies, I want to talk about this album’s strengths. When it goes uptempo, mildly uptempo, as it does on “Japan”, it comes close to reaching the heights of “It’s Automatic”. Close, but no cigar. Still, there’s a nice skronky saxophone that scats over the end of the track, and even if the lyrics are a little confused – first, it’s talking about Japan, then Berlin, then New York – it’s still a rewarding little pop nugget. In fact, it’s generally the songs in the latter half of the record that work best – and “Japan” is one of them. “Summer Boys” has a great Postal Service vibe going for it, which might make it a plus for those hoping that that band gets around to dropping a sophomore album. “On the Rebound” offers lilting female vocals and a tiny music box organ, and offers some of the album’s best bon mots: “I told you secrets nobody believed / I adored the dreams you’ve built around me / Oh no, where do I go from here?” And “The Message” has a nice country rock riff to it: the sort of thing the Eagles might have pulled off if only they had had more electronic rock sensibilities.
But it is the front half of the record that is largely the most disappointing. Opener “Jungle Heart” tries for a Roxy Music-esque vibe and doesn’t quite pull it off – although there is a rather nice keyboard break at 1:38 into the piece that gives it an avant-garde feeling. “The Lobby” is more Marvin Gaye “Sexual Healing” territory than “What’s Goin’ On”. First single “We Run” really runs nowhere and just is as flaccid as a limp male member after a dip in cold water. “Your Heart” is similarly not catchy, and just glides along on an effortless organ line. “We Promised Together”, at least, offers a paint-peeling shimmery guitar line that recalls the best work of the Cure. But the album goes out on a whimper: “The River” (shades of the Boss, anyone?) is just a languid, uninteresting ballad that fizzles any Bic lighter anthem abilities.
All in all, Brand New Love is ... boring. And bland. And oatmeal. Without a clear-cut standout track like “It’s Automatic”, this record sees the group take a monumental leap backward. It would have easily benefited from a more upbeat and punchy song or two to make things really pop and standout. As it stands, Brand New Love is about as interesting as watching paint dry, which is saying something when you base your record, at least in part, on a vibrant and vital band such as Sebadoh, at least in that outfit’s ‘90s glory days. All in all, Brand New Love is a virtual snoozefest, a record loaded with listless ballads that don’t move the listener, and show that Sermeus might just very well be little more than a one-hit wonder. This record is not outright horrible, but it exists in that middle, gray zone of mediocrity and nary achieves liftoff during its 10 song running time. It used to be that the Go Find had an amazing song called “It’s Automatic”. With Brand New Love, the Go Find prove that it’s still automatic. Automatic pilot, that is.