Friday, 10 April 2009

ALBUM: Bishop Allen -Grrr… (Dead Oceans Records)

Bishop Allen deserve love. They had the brilliant idea of an EP a month for a year, released the both charming and clever Broken String, and they were on screen for about 30 seconds in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (although I’d question the choice of song – ‘Middle Management’ is good, but why not ‘Click Click Click Click’?)
On the first listen, it doesn’t seem like much has changed since the surprisingly good last album – same mix of folk and pop, cute minimalist arrangements and general sugary twee-ness that makes you buzz with child-like joy. If anything, musically Grrr… is more exciting and even tighter than its predecessor, with more interesting instrumentation (like marimbas and trumpets on ‘True of False’) and addictive but understated melodies, sort of equivalent to valium among drugs, with ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘The Lion and the Teacup’ containing some of the best poppy treats. However, lyrically the album as a whole fails to match up to earlier work, sounding too infantile or simple, and in particular spots dissolves into nursery rhyme-like mush (the main offender being ‘The Magpie’ although ‘Tiger, Tiger’ is a bit of a howler if you’re in the wrong mood). The title’s toddler/tantrum implications might have been a warning that was coming. As well as this, Grrr…lacks the effortlessly appealing songs like ‘Rain’ and ‘Click Click Click Click’ that really made the last album so brilliant.

It would be pretty harsh to call this a bad album, because it’s far from that – there’s a lot of great indie pop to be found and masterful arrangements on basically every track, but overall Grrr…suggests that the cohesiveness of The Broken String was more a happy accident than anything and that Bishop Allen still have some growing to do.

Standout Tracks: Dimmer, The Lion and the Teacup, Oklahoma, Cue the Elephants
Ollie Khakwani