Passion Pit are the handsome generics behind feelgood-hit-of-2009 ‘Little Secrets’ – you know, that one with the sleazy synth and the cowbells that throws up a sick drum break out of nowhere like David Caruso putting his shades on. But Passion Pit are also containers of multitudes, hidden treasures and bear-traps of sound. Not least intriguing is frontman Michael Angelakos, who, like a Greek-mythic antihero, seems cursed to express all his worldly misery in upbeat, obnoxiously danceable electronic pop. (Recommended reading: a great, albeit grumpy, interview on this subject in The Guardian.)
And while “gossamer” is exactly the sort of word we in the blogosphere like to use about bands like Passion Pit, this second album is immediately nothing so light and insubstantial. ‘Take A Walk’ cuts through its own flutes and glockendribble with a keyboard riff and bass-drum THWACK right out of the Matt & Kim playbook. And there’s no “hands up in the air/just don’t care/beat/feet” nonsense, either; instead, a Lomanish monologue about the state of things issues from a Conservative pensioner’s imagined mouth. People will dance to this too. They will move their lips vaguely to “We can rip apart the socialists and all their damn taxes”. Maybe therein lies the beauty – in the intergenerational, cross-cultural absolution of a good chorus.
Or maybe that’s more disturbing than beautiful. Either way, it’s a remarkable way to write an album. These songs bounce around from influence to influence, with ‘I’ll Be Alright’ and ‘Cry Like a Ghost’ borrowing from Rustie’s pyrotechnical toolbox of chipmunked samples and snares, ‘Carried Away’ daytripping in an ’80s romcom with Hot Chip, and ‘Constant Conversations’ humid with the slick slide ’n’ click that No Kids do so well. I could ride the “this is like this” formula a lot further, guy: I hear Anamanaguchi and The Radio Department, Stars and Polyphonic Spree, even Parenthetical Girls and Owen Pallett all squabbling and flirting in the chaos of the Passion Pit.
But then, every time, there’s the chorus. The wretched, impossible CHOON!ness of it.
Passion Pit’s choruses keep returning to this otherplace, this plateau above and outside the various sonic languages and quirks of their verses. Where the vocals stretch out, warpdriven, colours flying past and blurring into white. As ‘On My Way’ and ‘Love Is Greed’ evidence, the melodies are pure sentiment, potent hit-musical stuff: but if the ineffably warm waves of “It’s not fair/It’s not fair” in ‘It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy’ still leave you cold, then there’s nothing for you to “get” here. The getters of Gossamer may well be soppy, fragile spanielfolk, but when the strings glide in on ‘Where We Belong’ they’re going to get it so completely that you should envy them every stream-eyed, sore-hearted second.