OK so I might get sick of this one after a while, but we’re not blogging for posterity here. Chairlift are yet another band from Brooklyn (though originally from Boulder), and their debut album, “Does You Inspire You”, is another record that’s making me rethink my long-nurtured antipathy towards ‘80s revivalism.
Ostensibly, a lot of this enormously – perhaps transiently – beguiling album is fixated on a certain kind of glacial synthpop. There are some pretty obvious influences at the root of a good few Chairlift songs; “Planet Health”, for instance, has the nebulously oriental synth chimes and fretless bass that must surely have been inspired by Japan circa “Tin Drum”.
As one of the relatively few ‘80s New Pop types I can stomach, the Japan comparison is fine by me, though some of the other names I’ve seen thrown about in relation to Chairlift are a bit alarming – Yazoo, even Berlin, amazingly. The thing is, though, they’re good enough – and discreetly arty enough, too – to suggest an entirely different set of reference points.
So while, “Territory” is a borderline preposterous piece of synth bombast, it’s still engaging thanks to Caroline Polachek’s sternly ethereal vocals and a series of melodic shifts that may call to mind “TNT”-era Tortoise (like another superficially ‘80s band, The Week That Was). And plenty of the droll, precise musical settings remind me of a bunch of mid-‘90s German bands, like Tarwater and Kreidler, who were a satellite of the post-rock scene and who made cerebral pop music out of avant-electronica.
The opening “Garbage” is especially terrific in this way, also recalling a synth rescoring of Sonic Youth’s “Experimental Jet Set”, with Polachek’s still, opulent croon a distinct relative of Kim Gordon. And the record ends with an odd and striking sequence that runs through arch country (“Don’t Give A Damn”) to dislocated ambience (“Chameleon Closet” and “Ceiling Wax”), the latter finding Polachek noting, “I will never return from that scary place”.
I guess I should stress, though, that a good part of what Chairlift do is vigorously hip and catchy – so catchy, in fact, that I’m wary a few of these songs will become irritants once they become ubiquitous. “Evident Utensil” is actually irritating from the off, being a wryly bouncy cousin of “Barbie Girl” after a fashion. But “Bruises” is the one that’s going to make Chairlift, a mighty successful negotiation between poise and cuteness that’s an infallibly perfect successor to Feist as the iPod soundtrack. Let’s count how many weeks before it drives us mad. . .