This article originally appeared in MiG on September 15, 2010.
What with war, poverty, state collapse, and catastrophic climate change, none of us would blame them if they were surly. But the music — and presumably the upstarts behind it — is fun. Celebratory. Quirky. Square like a beach ball. A tsunami of Yippee! Indeed, when the lyrics break temporarily from romance (“If I loved you to death, would your bones attack me?”) and cry out out something heartbroken (“This life is so hard”) the listener scarcely believes it.
Casual aficanados know The Meligrove Band from their late-2005 Planets Conspire, particularly the eyebrows-vanish-under-the-bangs intrigue of “Our Love Will Make The World Go Round.” It's a jangly, danceable, cheerleader-rock anthem that whispers its pillow talk at 140 decibels. Built with pianos, fueled by guitars, and clad with joyful shouting, Planets Conspire stretched this ra! ra! motif into long play format. Perhaps it went three minutes too long, but it nevertheless heated the irons to a spectacular white glow. Five years ago.
The Meligrove Band did not strike again while the irons were hot.
Exclaim called Planets Conspire “strong as super glue” while it reached #2 on college radio. The band performed live on MTV Canada… twice. SPIN.com selected them as Artist of the Day. And then… V2 Records folded, effectively canceling the album's US release, and removing any deadline or urgency from the task of making their next album – not to mention the money to do it.
Touring became more sporadic, while the band took a slow, piecemeal approach to album-making.
The deadline-free genesis of their fourth LP Shimmering Lights is obvious. Themes are drawn, perfected, and summarily abandoned. Detour signs point everywher
e. Strewn about like so
much detritus are the nods to their heroes, to their arch-enemies, and to themselves. The pastel track “Make Believe It” is Go Push Your House Into The Lake Good, replete with a 007 guitar riff, a space needle organ lick, and a pi/e time signature. Vocals are accessible, even inviting: the sound of a small fraternity singing karaoke to its own in-house material. And we dare you not to pine for the B-52s, even as they bow to The Mars Volta and The Flaming Lips at the same time.
“Really Want It” unpacks the pom poms and Jason Nunes' galactic-explorer falsetto. It's a fitting title: you really will want it. The soccer hooligan chorus. The acerbic guitar. The beehive hairdo textures. Sometimes resistance, it turns out, really is futile.
Those who still long for Planets Conspire can turn to another track, “Bones Attack!!” (yes! love us to death!). The piano returns, and the strings do, as well as the carefree fa la la! (Don't worry. Grunge guitars come smashing through all of the hippie lemonade paisley in the opening moments of “This Work,” the next track.) “Eagles” somehow takes math rock out to the garage. And if architecture is frozen music, “Halflight” is blueprint slag.
This may not quite be the birth of a new art form, but competing indie wunderkinds will be ripping off Shimmering Lights for years.
The only conceivable criticism lies in the realm of track preferences: there is no manner of global fix that could improve the album wholesale. Yet the present correspondent does not really care for “White Like Lies,” while that might end up as your song of the year. Too andante. Too much unlike the track before and the track just after. In a record full of beautifully whitewashed mixes, “Kingfisher” plays as a bit over-hydrated. And maybe the reverb on the title cut should have been set to a 3.8-second delay instead of 4.2-second. See what we mean?
No? Then let's just spell it out: they're happy. They're smart. They're in love. And they're ridiculously talented. Go eat mushroom quesadillas with them on September 21. And say hello to the white rabbit while you're away. 4/5