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"Love Is Not Pop"

El Perro del Mar – Love Is Not Pop
21 April 2009, 16:00 Written by Andy Johnson
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el-perroIt is only once you hear Love Is Not Pop that you realise how ominous and significant its title is. El Perro del Mar, AKA Sarah Assbring, is known for her sunny pop confections and this new mini-album is largely a dramatic about-turn. Upon realising that, the title takes it on momentous importance - after all the all the bouncy accessibility of songs like "God Knows (You've Got to Give to Get)" from the self-titled album, it's as if Assbring is now saying "Love is not pop, this is the real thing now."Accordingly, Love Is Not Pop is a consistently subdued record. Recorded with Rasmus Hagg, one half of Swedish cult heroes Studio, the sound has taken on a minimalist, less-is-more, and slightly electro-tinged texture. Some has remained from past El Perro del Mar exploits, like the repetitive lyrics, for example - but with the melodies and instrumentation being so much less bouncy and catchy here, that repetition becomes a chore as Assbring repeats the same lines over and over again over smatterings of sometimes retro-sounding synths, bass and occasionally drums. Everything is extremely hushed, giving us an intimate, sensual, reflective set of songs far removed from much of the music which has brought El Perro del Mar to this point. At their best, these songs can alternately make the most of that subdued atmosphere, as on "Change of Heart" or "Heavenly Arms", but frequently overriding that is a feeling of half-heartedness and soulessness to this new direction. "Let Me In" in particular sounds like a discarded Stevie Nicks 80s B-side, a nothingy number which unfortunately shows that with this new, more "adult" style, El Perro del Mar has largely ended up creating less, rather than more affecting music.It's easy to imagine that a lot of people will see Love Is Not Pop as a rather pretentious, patronising successor to earlier Assbring efforts, but I'm not sure that's really true. It's a record which has made an earnest attempt to bring the sound forward, but it's quite an extreme attempt which is likely to alienate some of those who had been enthusiastically following up to now. Upbeat pop is not inherently better than worldly, slow introspection. But when the former was done so well, and the latter sparkles only partly, it leaves Love Is Not Pop less than entirely recommendable. 58% El Perro del Mar on MySpace
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