Tower of Love hums with 60s pop brilliantine and childhood nostalgia, its easy grace and catchy melodies difficult to resist
Tower of Love is the debut album for Mancunian singer-songwriter Jim Noir. A collection of the best bits of three previously-released EPs Eanie Meany, My Patch and A Quiet Man, plus a few new tracks, Tower of Love hums with 60s pop brilliantine and a slightly uncomfortable childhood nostalgia. Still, with its easy grace and a plethora of catchy sunshine melodies, the disc can't help but waft pleasantly by.
You'll recognize one song -- "Eanie Meany" -- immediately from Adidas' World Cup ad, though the real stars there were the two Brazilian boys and the brand's salute to imagination. The song itself is innocent and childlike, capturing the nostalgia for boyhood better than Syd Matters. In the end, however, the easy groove and repetitive refrain ("Eanie meany run away") become more a soundtrack than a stand-alone single.
Actually, the singer-songwriter's preoccupation with childhood is reflected in all aspects of Tower of Love, from the backward-yearning lyrics to the toy-piano instrumentation. "Climb A Tree" again taps the nostalgia of childhood through an out-of-tune folk riff and acoustic Eagles vibe. "Key Of C" has a Sesame Street outlook, sunny and simple ("I want to be in the key of C, / It's easier to play it") -- though the implication is that Noir is more complex than he lets on. Opener "My Patch" combines Beatles-ish honky-tonk, Boy Least Likely To chamber pop and the dry un-serious threats of Hot Chip ("If you ever stand on my patch, I'll bring you down") into a swirling, lovely ballad. It comes over like a multi-tracked, gentler Ed Harcourt. Actually, that British songster is maybe the best comparator for Noir: both are in love with gorgeous melody, making sophisticated pop music with broad appeal.
Elsewhere, the typical at-a-loss male persona comes off decidedly twee. On "Computer Song", Noir sings: "Every time I try to make a silly little song, / My efforts are all wasted 'cos machinery goes wrong". This lovable helplessness is more Boy Least Likely To than Belle & Sebastian or Camera Obscura, though, both of which are more cautiously adventurous, reaching out into more sophisticated arrangements and instrumentation. Even BLLT draw up their childhood nostalgia with peppy instruments, marching-percussion and inventive structures. Noir's content to exist on a more sedate level.
The point of all this comparison is, of course, that Tower of Love's component parts exist very close to the surface and are easily recognized. From the contemporary artists mentioned above to some more classic nods (Beach Boys' sweet 70s soul on "I Me You I'm Your"; Simon & Garfunkel layered harmonies on "How To Be So Real" and "The Only Way"), Jim Noir casually allows the history of pop music to inform his arrangements; luckily, he never allows them to overwhelm his natural sense of melody. Somehow, these sweet songs still sound fresh.
It seems more indie-looking groups are allowing themselves the luxury of this kind of full-sounding pop. Most recently, maybe, this has been perfected by Peter, Bjorn and John over in Sweden with their addictive "Young Folks". Jim Noir, on his best tracks, approaches this level of saccharine addictiveness. Even when his flirtations with electronic music or pulsing organ sound seem similar enough to previous efforts so as to approach filler, Noir retains a sunny optimism that's difficult to resist. For that reason alone Tower of Love is worth a listen.