Posting on message boards is one of my greatest weaknesses. No matter how many times I tell myself that I will never get in an online argument again, it somehow happens. I let typed words on a screen get under my skin and get the better of me. Lately, I've been trying to tame the frequency with which I browse these boards. Recently, I stumbled upon a thread where various posters were offering up their choices for "Bands That Sound Like the Postal Service". Inevitably, Dntel was mentioned, as was most of the Morr Music roster (Notwist, Ms. John Soda, etc.). A couple of days later, I popped in the Bloodthirsty Lovers CD into the stereo and was surprised by what I heard.
The Bloodthirsty Lovers, featuring David Shouse -- whose resume includes the Grifters and Those Bastard Souls -- offer up something quite different from Shouse's past projects. Psychedelic, poppy, dreamy, and at times terribly catchy, their self-titled debut is a pleasant, synth-driven indie rock surprise, which will stand tall on a CD shelf beside the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, +/-, Midwest Product, and, yes, the Postal Service. While not as straight ahead as the aforementioned bands, the Bloodthirsty Lovers are just as accessible, providing a darker, trippier, and at times heavier take on glitch pop.
The CD opens with "Telepathic", a bass-driven tune featuring haunting synths that seem to have escaped from a Dracula film soundtrack. With the only lyrics being the name of the song, it is surprising how powerful the song is as it rises and falls. With waves of guitars that enter and exit with tidal power, "Telepathic" justifies its five-minute running time. "Hardcore", whose vocal melody sounds eerily like "An Echo, a Stain" from Bjork's Vespertine, finds the chorus punctuated by beautifully reverberated guitars. The instantly danceable "2000 Light Years from Home" immediately conjures the majestic lo-fi pop of the Magnetic Fields and the brimming confidence of Pulp. Punchy and ready to take on the world, the song is easily the centerpiece of the disc.
It's too bad the following few songs drag the debut down. "Call off the Thugs" is more boring than dreamy, the instrumental "Datapunk" is betrayed by the kitschy guitar line, and "Transgression #9" suffers the unfortunate fate of sounding like the Fun Lovin' Criminals. This funk-propelled number simply doesn't fit in the flow of the rest of the album.
Fortunately, the album goes for a strong finish. "Take the Time" takes the breathless vocal style of the Sea & Cake's Sam Prekop and fuses it to Beach Boys-style production. "1000 Light Years from Home" is not a reprise of the former song, nor an homage to the Rolling Stones, but rather a nod to Shouse's past bands, and is a riff rocker that still finds room for some well placed beats and synths. The album closer, "Waking Up in a Good Place" is, like "Datapunk" and "Transgression #9", influenced by '60s and '70s funk, but tames it considerably, providing an admirable finish.
This summer, I caught the Bloodthirsty Lovers live, when they opened for symphonic space rockers the Flaming Lips. The band at that show was quite different from the one on this CD. Shouse and company seemed to lean towards the wall of noise rock of his past bands, instead of the subtle melodies that are found on this debut. I can only hope that the Bloodthirsty Lovers were trying to keep up with the sonic assault of their tourmates, as they definitely have a bright future ahead of them if they continue their inventive, keyboard-driven indie pop.