I first listened to The Concretes last year, as I worked backwards from their former singer, Victoria Bergsman, and her solo album East Of Eden, to their eponymous debut from 2004. Just as I had loved her album, I loved their work together as a group, but for very different reasons. The Concretes was a jangly pop mix of horns, strings and a sickly sweetness complemented by the accented, carefree, slightly odd vocal of Bergsman. Basically it was just really nice ”“ and I don”™t mean this as a put-down at all. It was like a musical equivalent of watching a decent feel-good film like Juno or Little Miss Sunshine or something. It was a cheerful listen that was surprising in how enjoyable it was.
Since then much has been made of Bergsman”™s departure back in 2007 and the effect of that on their album of that year, Hey Trouble. Many people seem to think that the band is still struggling to work out what they”™re doing without her, but this seems absurd to me. They replaced Bergsman immediately with then drummer, Lisa Milberg, who has a voice not dissimilar from her predecessor”™s and except for this change the line-up has stayed largely the same. So, surely this shouldn”™t have made too big an impact? Obviously I don”™t know exactly what role Victoria had in the band and maybe she did tell them what they all had to do at all times so that without her they fell apart, but for whatever reason they have taken a different direction.
For me, the most noticeable thing about new album WYWH after the first few listens, was that much of the album was completely unnoticeable. It”™s strange that a band made up of 8 members can create such little sound, and indeed in comparison with their debut, there is so little going on in most of the songs. They”™ve lost the horns and summery quality of six years ago and many of the songs have more of an aim to be almost chillout, ambient, dance music, but unfortunately I”™m not sure that they really reach their target. Which is understandable ”“ it”™s a big gap between cute melodic pop and synthy, relaxed, seductive disco. And actually it isn”™t an awful album. There are some great songs on it.
The album opens with their longest track to date, ‘Good Evening’, which has a beautiful dreamlike quality that keeps working for six and a half minutes. ‘Crack In The Paint’ follows with a similar feel, but, irritatingly, there”™s a song in between, ‘My Ways’, that just doesn”™t fit with the mood of the songs either side of it. This seemed to be a theme for the rest of the album ”“ some really pretty tracks interspersed with songs that either didn”™t seem right or that just sounded annoying. For instance, a band that has apparently matured and will start with an ambient 6 minute track, but will later sing repeatedly about staying in bed all day (in a way that suggested pure laziness to me), is not actually a matured band.
Strangely I find myself thinking that I might describe many of the songs on WYWH as being “nice”, just as I did the songs on The Concretes. Unfortunately, this time it isn”™t meant as a compliment. I just don”™t know what else to say about them. They”™re pretty songs but without much really going on in them, which, after their earlier work made this album a disappointment for me. I think this is the main issue though; if this album was by someone else and I hadn”™t had particular expectations, I might have enjoyed it more. This is obviously a more general issue in music ”“ how can you change your sound to prevent people from saying you”™re boring, while not disappointing fans that want you to carry on making music in the same way that you did before? I don”™t know the answer and I don”™t think The Concretes do either.
Good Evening (Live for PSL):
All Day (Official Video):