PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Purity Ring: Shrines

Shrines holds skyward a handful of some of the finest offerings Planet Pop can muster in 2012, yet as an “album experience” it ultimately fails to merit a new religion.


Purity Ring

Shrines

Label: 4AD
US Release Date: 2012-07-24
UK Release Date: 2012-07-23
Amazon
iTunes

It's no stretch to say Purity Ring's debut Shrines rolls into town lookin' 'n' smellin' like a Sure Thing. Even before you drop the needle, it's tempting to switch to DEFCON 1 and declare a new world order. Just read the signs. It's happening. "Meesterious-like-Roger-Moore" art-pop from an Adam & Eve dreamwave electronica duo? Roger that! Borne from silver eggs unearthed in Montreal ... the Holyland of Cohen, Shatner? Affirmative. A band once called "Gobble Gobble"? Uh-huh! A lead singer, Megan James, who spins and weaves Dame Bowie-esque costumes from Mermaids' barnets for her and co-pilot Corin Roddick? DEVO-TASMIC! A duo whose early transmissions ("Ungirthed", "Belispeak"... yes, "Belispeak") sounded like they'd been beamed across the cosmos from Venus? Correct-a-mundo. Now freshly signed to 4AD!? The House of the Gods. The secret society that slips the art into, err, "Smart" and "Heart". Pixies. Cocteau Twins. Stereolab. Camera Obscura. Grimes. Yes, Mr. President the stars have aligned! Shrines’ sleeve even depicts lambs barfing up ghost arms to aprehend wandering flying lungs. What does it all mean? Nothing less than Purity Ring, you have permission to land ...

... and for the first quarter hour you will be thinking "THIS IS BLOODY IT FOLKS!" whilst frantically packing your best threads, beloved teddy bear and giant alarm clock to go follow their magic mystery tour right outtatown. "Crawlersout" (the Ring talk in neo-Elfish parlance) beams the dynamic duo down with glacial analogue synths, blinding UFO headlights, a distorted R&B patter (think Cassie, Aaliyah), and James' woozy, hallucinogenic poetry. It's a hazy fusion of Nite Jewel's kaleidoscopic pop, the bouncin' hydraulics of Compton lowriders and the massive eye of Sauron. A memorable first contact f'sure but early single "Fineshrine" burns brighter baby. "Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you". A midnight kiss of a tune; beguiling, breathtakin' and abloom with moonlit fantasy and, ok, maybe a little tipsy. "Listen closely to the floor / Omitting graces through its pores." Oddly beautiful and surfing a heavy bass wave under the delicate flicker of the night sky, its Marc Chegall's The Lovers with a click-beat and a smoke machine. First single "Ungirthed" keeps Shrines stellar, a celestial slow jam, part R. Kelly's "Ignition", tripping on meds and double-dipped in fairy dust. It's mischievous, mysterious and impossible not to adore. The run of mindmelters continues with "Amenamy," which is just as Mogwai-cute (the furball, not the band) and tingles with some of the otherworldly delights of labelmate Grimes' Visions.

Despite the KAPOW! of this opening salvo there grows a nagging suspicion that Shrines is slowly swimming in ever-decreasing circles. Shrines greatest strength becomes its cruellest enemy. This is a magical place but a very small magical place. It's like discovering Narnia is actually just a wee ring-fenced theme park or that Fantasy Island is the size of a traffic island. You soon find yourself seeing the same sights 'n' sounds again and again. For starters, every song on Shrines wants to give you “the clap”. This narrowing familiarity is particularly hazardous on the longest tracks. The dragging, drawl 'n' crawl duet "Grandloves" – effectively 10cc's "I'm Not In Love" rebooted by the Weeknd – is a mess of vocoders and rewired R&B cliché which proves deathly dull. Divine harp outro though. Then "Cartographist" wheezes and pants like a Salem offcut, effectively fitting Shrines with a ball 'n' chain, and a limp, for five looong minutes. Later "Lofticries" equally dilutes their brand to bland factory-line effect. In the context of Shrines strict adherence to company policy even chipper single "Obedear" pales, now a slightly-less extraordinary machine, another face in the crowd.

"Grandma! The water is rising!" High-five the Lord then for the heavenly "Belispeak"! Its arrival washes like a baptismal rebirth after the midlife, swampy-slump that threatened to consume our infant Shrines. A captivating, confessional phantom menace with a passing resemblance to Crystal Castles' "Alice Practice" (albeit not as feral) it sways seductively from “Super-sultry” to “Super-creepy”. "Grandma I've been unruly in my dreams and with my speech", this little red riding hood favours the company of wolves. The flames of fiestiness lick the toes of the irresistible "Saltkin" too. TLC lovingly rebuilt by machines and packin' a killer suckerpunch, "There's a cult, there's a cult inside of me." Reverend, this 'un has fire in its loins! Despite gradually descending expectations for Shrines, trim finale "Shuck" parts with good grace. Picture "Love Me Tender" cut adrift into extra-terrestrial fog, "I'll take up your guts to the little shed outside" offers James, the eternal romantic.

Shrines holds skyward a handful of some of the finest offerings Planet Pop can muster in 2012, yet as an “album experience” it ultimately fails to merit a new religion. Purity Ring are an alluring concept – the lyrical imagery alone is dazzling – and there is divinity here worthy of rapture and reverence. However, even over a polite forty minutes, familiarity and repetition conspire to break the spell. Certainly if Purity Ring is here for the long haul, the group will have to ditch the SatNav and push their boat a little further out to sea. Still for a first date there's enough here to fill your "Little Belly" with butterflies who'll flip 'n' flap your heart a-flutter. Just don't go expectin' the earth to move.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.