When I reviewed
EP #1 by Atlanta duo Black Love, I concluded
that this first release was both fun and a little offbeat. Furthermore,
I thought that the music showed a lot of melodicism, although
at times this quality was masked by the occasional noisy element.
Anyway, I subsequently received their first full length album,
called Geographic Tongue. Based on the previous
release, I thought I knew what to expect.
However, I was wrong. And, believe it or not, I like this even better.
Geographic Tongue begins with Eisenhower's 1953 Inaugural Quote, which is a deceptively simple track. The droning melody of the guitar combines with the prominent vocals in a stark, shoegazer-esque way. This is highlighted by the underlying keyboard elements, which add a mysteriously creepy undertone to the bleakness of the primary music. In and of itself, the song is an attention grabber, but everything is enhanced towards the end by a staccato voice and guitar run of alternating half-steps.
In contrast, the second track, Buddy Holly the Crickets,
is a more upbeat sounding affair. Demonstrating more of the
melodicism shown on their previous
EP, this song is brought together by the drums and guitar.
Eventually the vocal line begins, and the keyboard, as usual,
highlights it. But the best thing about this song (which is
one of my favorites on the album) is the fact that it feels
like a dance track. Not in the Indie Rock sense, or the rave
sense, but rather in a old school, '80s New Wave way.
In a slightly different vein, Anthrax (Black) Love Song begins with
an almost psychedelically-influenced, distorted instrumental
line. However, after a few seconds the country-like vocal melody
breaks in, creating a contrast between the expectations of the
two styles (especially when the vocal harmonies emerge). In
many ways, this song reminds me of the more recent live work
of Atlanta's Hubcap
City, whom I also find oddly compelling in the same way
as Black Love.
The other songs on the first half of this 13 track release also all offer differing highlights and contradictions, whether it is quietly unexpected minor-key musical contrasts combined with the deep horn in Ear Elephant or the upbeat, New Wave-y rant and tambourine of the infectiously catchy Humans, Ugh!. Likewise, Soul Hustler, the so-called Intermission on the album, consists of an electronica-esque musical background added to audio samples from both Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as well as Apocalypse Now. It's an odd combination, but like so much on this first half of Geographic Tongue, the differing elements make the whole more interesting.
On the second half of the album, the more overtly melodic side
of Black Love emerges strongly. For instance, the song immediately
after Soul Hustler, Tell, is perhaps the most
Indie Rock thing I've heard by Black Love,. And it's probably
not too surprising that, along with Buddy Holly the Crickets,
it's my favorite song on the album. Combining a semi-distorted
guitar line, backing organs and a melodically chanted vocal
line, this wouldn't be out of place on Superchunk's
Here's to Shutting Up,
although it doesn't have the helium-voiced singing.
The pop sensibility continues throughout the remaining tracks
on Geographic Tongue. For instance, Impasse
is held together by a quite pretty piano/keyboard melody, and
the echoed vocals remind me of Jesus and Mary Chain, circa Darklands.
Similarly, Save Me has the bounciness and child-like
musical repetition that was once a hallmark of They Might Be
Giants, although the echoed guitar adds a slightly melancholy
touch. Finally, Forgive I'me has an almost psychedelic
pop feel and a "sing along with the band" intro. However,
this song then returns to Black Love's slightly discordant roots
with a slower interlude that is both vaguely off-tune and minor
keyed. Yet even this contrast between the happy upbeat poppiness
and the discordant, more mellow bridges recalls the work of
an Athens based band like Empire
In the end, Geographic Tongue appears to build onto the high
standard shown by Black Love on their debut
EP. The music in and of itself is more melodic and accessible,
but the band retains their unique ability to add offbeat touches
and discordant effects to their ostensibly pop-like songs so
that something interesting and slightly different is created.
And this new something is, to me at least, incredibly intriguing
and enjoyable on multiple different aural levels. With that
in mind, I have to say that the musical expansiveness of Geographic
Tongue is a welcome antidote to the sameness of most
music I've heard recently.