I guess not everything can be good. But that’s okay, and being able to quantify these things is useful. Whether things are sucky, not bad, alright, good, great, excellent, unbe-effing-lievable… yeah, that’s important. Especially when it comes down to things that you feel you should like.
Take Cold Pumas’ album, for instance. Every surface feature of this record tells me I should love it: the early Joy Division menace, the trash-garage approach, the repetitive pulse and drone of The Fall/Suicide/the Velvets (pick a favourite)… I can’t fault their record collections. Throw a post-No Age, lo-fi aesthetic into the mix with some textbook Sonic Youthery and you’ve got a guaranteed, bona fide success story on your hands, right? Right?
Wrong, disappointingly. This album bores me. I’ve listened closely. I’ve played it in the background in case it creeps up on me unawares. I’ve peeled back layers and peered around corners. Basically, I’ve tried and tried and tried again with this record, but it does absolutely nothing ‘cept the same old thing over and over.
Let’s talk repetitive drones. When they’re done well, they can unlock corners of your mind you never even knew existed. Don’t think of it as trapping yourself in a groove; see it as liberating yourself from the conscious absorption of melody, allowing your mind to switch off and your subconscious to take over. It’s a giddy thrill, alright. Hell, sometimes the riff’s just damn well fun enough to fly it into the ground and let yourself by carried away by the chaos. But this never happens once on Persistent Malaise. It just trundles on moodily, eschewing textural subtleties in favour of cranking out the same old half-arsed Craig Scanlon lines, and falls short of gripping at every turn. Tracks blur into one another instead of making their mark: ‘Sherry Island’ is barely distinguishable from ‘The Modernist Crowd’, which in turn doesn’t have much to stand alone from ‘Puce Moment’. Well, okay, ‘Variety Lights’ has a pretty neat dual guitar build-up that almost resembles the dystopian soundscape of da Yoof’s Daydream Nation – meditative, messy, moody, in thrall to the sprawl. Such a shame the drums have to kick in and bring us back to the monotony of the rest of the record, ‘cause aside from this and some slight changes of pace, they’ve got one solitary trick, and even that’s severely undercooked.
Look, I don’t wanna hate this. I hope that in a month, six months… hell, a year’s time I’ll be chowing down on these words like so much cheap pizza, while the rest of the world is huffing Cold Pumas til their septa fall out, and mocking me for ever imagining they might be anything other than mind-blowingly awesome. Or better yet, that they come out with a second LP that craps mightily on this dull, grey-brown turdpile of a debut, leaving me with no choice but to collapse to my knees, hold up my hands and say “I shoulda known you guys were up to something!” And then they should sneer right back at my pitiful contrition and disdainfully boot my face off. That, objectively speaking, would be cool.
But sadly that’s not what’s happening right now. This record does nothing. Says nothing. Achieves nothing. All it does is sound like a bunch of your favourite bands, only without the songs, the impact or the fun. And what’s the point of that?
Prove me wrong, Cold Pumas. PLEASE. PROVE ME WRONG.