A sloppy lo-fi album with half-written melodies and lyrics that aren't as clever as their writers think they are? Sign me up!
The greatest flaw of every music critic is that we will go into every album we hear hoping (if not expecting) that it will be the greatest piece of music ever made. I’m sure there are plenty of artists out there who have been slagged and put down by people like me simply because they committed the egregious sin of not making Revolver or Pet Sounds or something like that. Should modest expectations really be punished? I’m tempted to say no... but then there’s the example of the Memories, whose new album Love Is The Law is the perfect example of what happens when an artist aims low and doesn’t have the good sense to hit the target.
Just one listen to Love Is the Law will give any listener a pretty good impression as to what kind of band the Memories imagine themselves as being. The album’s short songs, broke-fi production values, and stabs at humor recall some sort of hybrid of Pavement, Guided By Voices, Beat Happening, and just about any other seminal indie rock group from the ‘80s or ‘90s. A comparison to any of those bands would be unfair, though: Nothing about Love Is the Law comes close to the hidden intricacies of Pavement or the earworm melodies of GBV. Instead, the Memories couple their scuzzy lo-fi songs with fondness for bubblegum pop. So, like anyone making instantly disposable pop songs, the Memories would probably prefer that you not spend too long dwelling on the intellectual value of their music and just enjoy their songs about girls, getting stoned, and being stoned.
But Goddamnit, does it all have to be so dull? For an album that’s this short, Love Is the Law ends up being a chore to get through. Much of the album sounds unfinished, and that’s not because of the production quality. Very few of these songs hit the two-minute mark, which isn’t so bad except that none of them feel finished. It’s as if the band came up with the beginning of a song, but they couldn’t be bothered to finish the damn thing. Moreover, Love Is the Law is an emotionally disparate album: The band try their hand at apathy, wry pranksterism, and sincere affection without really earning any of the above. The Memories’ idea of a joke is to name a song “Like Riker” and hope that people laugh because Star Trek. Then, they bank on “Love Is Not a Dream” being affecting simply because their amps are turned low, their guitars are played competently (for once), and the word “love” is in the title.
Admittedly, at some point in my life, I probably would have liked an album like Love Is the Law. Bands like the Memories almost always bank on the charm of lo-fi recording, hoping that it creates that feeling of intimacy for the listener. It’s something that many other bands in recent memory (Ducktails comes to mind) have accomplished brilliantly. The Memories, on the other hand, seem to believe that a four-track recorder and a slacker attitude to make this kind of music. Perhaps they weren't trying to make an album as groundbreaking as Slanted and Enchanted, but in attempting to craft an album of simple pleasures, the Memories have only ended up with something that, while simplistic, isn't much fun at all.