Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit


Grouplove – Grouplove
11 February 2011, 17:00 Written by Josh Hall

Think about your friends. You can divide them into two groups: the fair-weather ones, and those who you actually care about. Then, you can divide the fair-weather group into two groups of its own: those whose company you actually enjoy, and those who you merely tolerate.

We all have people who we just tolerate. They are, for the most part, irritating, and you wouldn’t want to be stuck at the bar with them if the service was slow. But you keep seeing them, perhaps because it is convenient, or perhaps because they made you laugh when you first met.

Grouplove is that friend. The one with whom, objectively, you probably wouldn’t choose to spend time, but who you seem, inexplicably, to have just picked up somewhere along the way.

In this case, the moment that makes the relationship worthwhile occurs early on. This self-titled mini-album, Grouplove’s first on a major label, begins on a high note. Opener ‘Colours’ is a bracing introduction. Full of controlled aggression, the track rotates around an Isaac Brock-esque vocal, smothered in beautiful distortion that would sound more at home in Washington than in Grouplove’s native Brooklyn.

Twenty seconds into the second track, though, and you will be wondering why you bother with this friendship at all. On the frankly un-Googleable ‘Naked Kids’, the band seem to manoeuvre themselves into a position equidistant between Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Drums; half listen-to-us-do-this-quirky-thing yelped vocals, half risible 50s revival. “It’s summer time fun / Relax and stay young / You could be home with Oprah Winfrey,” they mumble, barely able to conceal their self-satisfaction. This could be a remarkable pastiche of some of the more offensive dross with which we were forced to contend last year. If so, my hat goes off to them. If, on the other hand, Grouplove really do want us to imagine “lying in the sun when we’re done,” and how we might then, I don’t know, “find a towel / Now we’re thinking ‘bout where we’re gonna eat” then they deserve nothing but contempt.

But, for every trough there is a peak. Or, at least, a protrusion. ‘Getaway Car’ takes a more straightforward approach, with absolution for the dangerously Oasis-esque lyrics granted by interesting production and a solid chorus. Meanwhile ‘Don’t Say Oh Well’ is a moderately successful attempt at the folk-shanty stomp that was so popular south of the Thames a couple of years ago. But we’re clutching at straws here.

By the time you get to the end of this six-song collection you might think you have endured all the frustratingly blind optimism one band has to offer. Then, just to kick you further into your coma of enforced sanguinity, you will be presented with the oh so cutely titled ‘Get Giddy’. “Oh let’s be friends / And we’ll hold hands” sings vocalist Christian Zucconi, as you cough up the ground glass you’ve just swallowed in an attempt to distract yourself. As if the chokingly saccharine lyrics weren’t dire enough, it turns out the chord progression is lifted straight from the Bob Dylan songbook. Compare ‘Get Giddy’ with Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’, and consider how quickly you would be reaching for the phone if you were Mr Zimmerman and you happened to be in a litigious mood.

This record will wear you out. ‘Colours’ excepted, it is unremittingly twee; almost unbelievably self-absorbed. It’s a bit like being waterboarded with liquid sunshine. If systematic abuse by happiness sounds fun, then this is the record for you. Frankly, though, I can think of few less pleasant ways to spend half an hour than listening to the solipsistic ramblings of a group of people who think there might be some merit in telling you what a great time they had at the beach.

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