There is an unshakeable feeling one gets, when beginning to listen to This Many Boyfriends‘ eponymous debut, that one has heard this album before, most likely young, 16 or 17 or so, and on a cool, rainy fall day, the kind where the leaves on the sidewalk glisten like puddles of blood and sunshine, and your parents are not home – this was when being home alone was fresh and new and exhilarating and terrifying – so you and your first love walk down the street, encased in jackets and wool caps, skipping over the blood and sunshine, and buy this record before taking it home and listening to it in the upstairs hallway, looking out on the neighbourhood, dancing, which leads to kissing, which leads to fooling around, which leads to the hallway floor, and the Autumn rain, the blood, the sunshine become one scene, that scene, when it first happened, and the album is the soundtrack to that scene, forever.
This Many Boyfriends is all bass lines, bright live guitars, and rounded, delightful vocals, something like Joy Division – or, perhaps more accurately, Dramarama on selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors – taking cues from Jamaica, exchanging some of the emotional heft for pop approachability, and leaning more towards the “dance” side of the Dance or Cry spectrum post punk music tends to exist in. Walking a fine line between heart on sleeve, tooth rotting cotton candy and sticky sweet, syrupy honest feeling, This Many Boyfriends mainly stick to the latter, and one is too busy dancing to be bothered much by the former. Their sound is immediately familiar and welcome, irresistibly moving, always with a wink and a tear and more often than not an infectious hook. Tiny blasts of feedback and ripsaw solos add some pseudo-flint to the proceedings, but the vast majority of the instrumentation is light, loose and fun.
Pieces like opener ‘Tina Weymouth’ and ‘Number One’ are exceedingly cute and wholly believable – in the way that it is believable for a 13 year old girl to believe that she is in love – in their emotional ways, painting pictures of feelings and moments any person afflicted with a deep romance will be easily attuned to. These are accompanied by cuts that could have very easily been discovered in an early ’80s time capsule (a compliment), like ‘Young Lovers Go Pop!’ and ‘(I Should Be A) Communist’ that trade respectively on warm, shimmering thick riffs and jagged little solos and speed.
‘I Don’t Like You (‘Cos You Don’t Like The Pastels)’ is a focal point for the album, both an exemplar for the lyrical content and tone of the entire production and as a jump off point for a faster, bumpier stretch run. As standard bearer for the tone of the whole enterprise, ‘I Don’t Like You’ demonstrates This Many Boyfriends’ uncanny ability to be biting without venom, acidic but with sugar. “I don’t like you/Cos you don’t like the pastels/I love you/For being you” is about as saccharine a lyric as one can find; yet here, amid bouncy drums and halcyon memories brought about by band name-drops, it simply comes off as earnest: an impressive feat, indeed. Those drums signal a full-on push into more rapid terrain that is expressed on ‘Starling’, endearingly inept kiss off ‘That’s What Diaries Are For’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Everything.’
It is a gift to be able to repurpose a beloved sound and still release an album that, rather than feeling like King-Hell piracy, could very well have been released among its direct descendants and fit right in, which is precisely what This Many Boyfriends have done. In the process, they have provided future high school art students with a new soundtrack to make love and paintings to when they become disenfranchised with the radio on rainy Autumn days.