I've honestly never been this let down by an album. Not once. Never have such high hopes based on someone's previous work been dashed so immediately.
Graham Van Pelt generally produces incredible music. The first Think About Life album was genius, and Miracle Fortress's Pink Roses was absolute gold. But this...
I'm talking about the new Think About Life record, Family. At first, I liked the cover art. This was my first introduction to the album. I thought it was cute in its simplicity and the lack of effort--a Wal-Mart family photo with the album title over top in cardboard paper. But I have to say--they put more effort into the artwork than the album itself, or so it feels. These songs feel cobbled together. The opening track, Johanna, it sounds like the Think About Life boys dug into their old funk collection and started spinning discs at random, not really worrying about how they mesh together. This is followed by a complete travesty of a song, Havin' My Baby which samples from--wait for it!--Paul Anka, while maintaining this horribly depressing attempt at mashing up their own music and production with what sounds like bargain bin vinyl.
A friend of mine described it as "they just decided to sing over unused Avalanches songs". It's almost all downhill from there. These tracks at best sound like some half-assed tribute to bad 1980s pop music--there's even a synthesized harpsichord in there. Normally, I'd be welcome to the melding of two of my favourite sounds, but instead I'm fairly certain Graham just pulled out the Value Village Casio keyboard. This is not nearly the same record as the self-titled debut--yet it's still in the Polaris Prize long list for this year. I sincerely hope it doesn't make the shortlist. That would be a problem.
There is one track, Sofa-Bed, which might make it on to a mix tape or a radio show of mine someday, but it's the equivalent of seeing a paper cup on top of a pile of styrofoam--it's only good by comparison. It would easily be the worst song on the debut album. It's one of these tunes that I can only describe as, musically, an ode to the 80s, and all that was campy and wrong. The lyrics are derivative and boring. Sigh. What more can I say?
If you're looking for the same Graham Van Pelt from Miracle Fortress, or even the first Think About Life record, don't look here. If you're willing to, as I have, stick it out and listen to it from start to finish, I wish you luck. I've honestly never been more disappointed by an album, and I had to deal with Rilo Kiley's Under the Blacklight.
Think About Life - Havin' My Baby
Think About Life - Sofa-Bed
Released: 26 May 2009