London indie rockers don't offer much new, but turn their twee influences into bright, enjoyable pop.
You could be forgiven for steering away from the debut album from the History of Apple Pie simply because of the band's name, which sounds so unbearably precious that it may shatter if a moderately strong breeze came by. Even if Out of View turned out to be the next Loveless, that image is a hard one to let go of. Unfortunately for them, Out of View isn't the next Loveless, even if it sounds like the latest in many attempts to recreate Kevin Shields's masterwork. It's an auspicious debut, however, and one can only hope that the young band can elaborate on the sonic groundwork laid out on Out of View.
Admittedly, nothing about the album is especially new; the band almost purposely recall twee and shoegaze acts of the past: a bit of Slowdive here, some Velocity Girl there, even more recent acts like Asobi Seksu (their closest sonic relative, though Apple Pie are less likely to sacrifice melody for atmosphere) all have their fingerprints on Out of View. Nothing plays out like straight homage; "You're So Cool" begins recalling Velocity Girl, but bursts of guitar save it from sounding like a group of kids aping their heroes. Still, their efforts at pastiche only get them so far; nothing on Out of View is going to necessarily make you turn your head.
What saves the album, and what could end up making the History of Apple Pie into something bigger further on down the road, is their attention to melody over atmosphere. For too long, aspiring bands who've found inspiration in groups like My Bloody Valentine assume that the key to sounding like them is to buy as many effects pedals as possible and make guitar sounds so spacey and ethereal that it's impossible for the listener not to lose themselves for a bit. What they forget, though, is that what makes Kevin Shields's songs so memorable is the strong sense of melody underneath the haze and that he never made his songwriting process over-complicated. There have to be pop songs -- however unconventional -- underneath the wash of guitar effects. This group understand this, and Out of View has plenty of melodic charm to spare as a result. Most other bands mining this genre would have probably drowned a song like "Mallory" or "I Want More" in reverb, but the History of Apple Pie strive for melodic clarity instead.
The band's emphasis on melody especially enhances the end of the record, during which they come the closest to pure imitation. The aforementioned "I Want More" tries a little too hard to out-Velocity Girl Velocity Girl, while "Long Way to Go" has an intro that sounds uncomfortably close to "You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals. They close with arguably their weakest track, a half-hearted Britpop pastiche job that aims for the grandiosity of the genre's greats but falls well short. Funnily enough, the song opens with the lyric, "Play to your strengths."
Nothing about Out of View is going to light the indie-rock world on fire; most of what the History of Apple Pie are doing is ground well-trodden. However, they're well-studied in their genre of choice, and their appreciation of songcraft is a welcome relief when similar groups are finding success with the most threadbare of songs. At least they know that it takes more than a reverb pedal and an apartment in Brooklyn to be a successful band.