There’s an idea within the confusing field of pseudo-scientific psychobabble called ‘the law of attraction’, which can be reduced to one quick soundbite: if you wish something hard enough, you can will it into existence. You know the deal: ask and you shall receive. If you book them, they will come.
The relevance of this is that San Francisco’s The Love-Birds have willed their sound into existence. In their press-release and other promotional material, there are approximately three million references to one particular band: Teenage Fanclub. Hey, they even had In the Lover’s Corner mastered by Norman Blake, Teenage Fanclub’s main man.
The miracle of Lover’s Corner is that it’s evocative of TFC without being completely derivative – they succeed on their own terms. It’s a fuzzy, dense synthesis of the spectrum power-pop, jangle-pop and college rock that borrows from a variety of sources and sends the sounds back scuffed, stained and worn. All your favourites are here: the searing guitar leads of Dinosaur Jr, the looseness of Pavement, the visceral impact of The Replacements, the hyper-caffeinated rush of early R.E.M or The Only Ones.
Album highlight “Clear The Air” sounds like Stephen Malkmus crooning over something from R.E.M.’s Green, all chiming guitars and downbeat vibes. The bummer is immediately remedied by the roaring “December (Get to You)”, which is Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life” as interpreted by Hüsker Dü. You read that correctly – the hook is identical to Knopfler’s plastic mega-smash.
The muscular swing of the opening few bars of “Gerrit” gives way to honey-sweet verses and a Crazy Horse guitar workout, all underpinned by tightly-wound drums and powerful bass. The Neil Young flavours continue into “Weak Riff”, which is richly layered and pleasantly nostalgic. Again, the rhythm section sound – no, are – superb throughout. The drums really hit, the bass booms exquisitely. “Hit My Head” is heavily seasoned with the flavours of The Only Ones and Big Star: pure pop songcraft, given life by lithe, supple bass, crisp drums, and thickly layered chords.
Towards the end of the record, you get the knockout one-two hit of “River Jordan” and “Tommy’s Theme”. Both are heavily reminiscent of different eras of the legendary Replacements. The rough-edged, scratchy power of the former contrasts beautifully with the thoughtful, considered potency of the latter. They are each the perfect counterpoint to each other: sweet and sour, tight and baggy, rough and smooth, Let it Be and Don’t Tell a Soul.
After it’s all done, your ears will feel as though they’ve been sandblasted (careful with headphones!), as the album frequently reaches piercing volume, even on low levels. But this is the genre where that’s not only acceptable but encouraged. It’d be reductive to say that all The Love-Birds are is an elegantly constructed tribute to Teenage Fanclub, as there’s so much on display here to truly immerse yourself in (it’s personally refreshing for me to see some folks doing something with the ever-fading ghost of the ‘Mats).
If you’re still reading, you know that this record is for you – it could even be your record of the year, in terms of being all killer, no filler. And hopefully, they eventually manage to break away from the influences and push on into something more unique, which makes this just about the ideal time to jump on the Bandwagon(esque).