Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls (Slumberland/Bella Union)
By Tamsin Chapman
I wish Veronica Falls had released this album last year.
I’m a big fan, seen them live four or five times, bought the singles, bought the T-shirt, Christ I’ve even got a Veronica Falls tote bag. It’s been almost two years since they first released the aces ‘Found Love In A Graveyard’ and ‘Beachy Head’ singles. Those two songs, suffused with grey British skies and hesitant melodrama, are triumphs of blendy, genre-bendy oomph. Flower-pressing the gothic back into indie pop; a tradition started by ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’ and last seen in the early 90s songs of Cranes, they are death discs of the sublime, equal parts nature worship and kitchen sink camp. Any song that starts with a kitten-strokingly, dufflecoat-buttoningly indie line like, “I get on my bike and I ride and ride and I’ll never be found again” and progresses to, “We’re not alone/We were living in a funeral home” is obviously taking the piss in glorious fashion. Isn’t it?
A lot has happened since those two singles were released. There’s been an EXPLOSION of bands claiming similar influences to Veronica Falls. We are living in a golden age of lo-fi indie pop and I love it. One day we woke up and, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers style, the Shop Assistants had taken over the body of every single musician who didn’t have a beard and quite a few who did. In the current popistocracy – I’m going to name it nufuzzwurld – the uniform is polka dots and the faces on the coins are Nico and Stephen Pastel. Which is obviously, obviously a good thing.
Trouble is, even the best things can get boring when you hear them all the time. Call me shallow but I’m starting to tire of nufuzzwurld. I sense a rebellion brewing; blood on the indietracks and moptop heads on spikes. Even though I had a free download review copy of this album I went out and bought a vinyl copy before listening to it, cos I was so convinced I’d love it and wanted to own the artefact and play it again and again as the nights draw in and the economy crumbles. But actually, once I listened to the thing, I was kind of underwhelmed. That’s not to say, its not a good album – it is – it’s crammed with good songs, lovely harmonies, chugalug guitars and danceability. The lyrics are as enjoyably silly as ever; “I lost my baby to the winter” (in ‘The Fountain’) – can they be serious?
There’s also a slight folky edge to VFs sound. Roxanne Clifford’s voice alone would do it, but combined with James Hoare’s as it is on many tracks here, the vocal blend is unexpectedly reminiscent of Steeleye Span. These leanings are confirmed by ‘Misery’, which ends with a snatch of the 16th Century round ‘Rose Rose Rose Rose’ .
I do like this album, I really do. I’m just not quite as enthusiastic as I thought I would be. I’ve a feeling that in 20 years time, future pop archivists will search out records from these years in the same way that Nuggets collectors unearthed lost garage classics – finding song after song that’s an absolute winner, not quite being able to believe just how much good stuff there was around, all quite similar but all quite marvellous. But right now, I want something more. Something not so pretty, not so retro, not so resigned to its fate. Something new?