Like so many gritty, Ray Ban-wearing British pop bands before it, The Big Pink has created quite a buzz. Between loudmouthed media remarks like “Lily Allen is a mouthy bitch” — which was, in fact, a compliment — and the band’s sexually suggestive name, it’s hard to push all the bullshit aside and take the edgy London duo’s music seriously.

The Big Pink

A Brief History of Love
4AD

It looks like The Big Pink’s Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell got the memo, though. The loudmouth tendencies that arguably made the band famous have seemed to disappear. For one, A Brief History of Love‘s formerly X-rated album artwork by Dennis Cooper has been toned down. The new cover now looks as though it could be found in any hipster-haven record store: it merely features an artsy photo of a scantily clad woman placed under the band’s name.

Even though the duo’s name may pay homage to The Band’s twangy, homespun Music from Big Pink, its musical influences are much closer to the textured, gloomy vocals of The Jesus and Mary Chain circa Psychocandy. Furze and Cordell, who produced A Brief History of Love themselves, play into the semi-garbled lo-fi sound that seems to be dominating indie rock right now, but they still manage to make the tracks sound fresh and exciting.

The first single, “Velvet,” is a moody ballad, complete with muffled electronic feedback that permeates the entire track. Produced by Alan Moulder, who has previously worked with bands like My Bloody Valentine and The Smashing Pumpkins, the song has an experimental quality that complements Furze’s soulful vocals. Through streams of percussion and sound, Furze’s voice seems drowned out by the music, creating a haunting sonic backdrop.

“Crystal Visions” and “Dominos” are both layered with electronic synthesizers that explode into intense guitar solos at their choruses. In an album slightly bogged down by slow, emotionally laden tracks, these songs bring a hard rock exterior that matches the band’s hip persona. “Dominos” takes on the cruel nature of love with pitiless lyrics like “Swallow my sugar kiss and eat it alone” and “I really loved breaking your heart.” The lyrics are twisted and almost sadistic, aiming for the gut and forgoing simple interpretation. These guys obviously have some serious hang-ups and aren’t afraid to air their dirty laundry in these songs.

Cordell, who also produced electronic tunes for Klaxons, Crystal Castles and The Teenagers, has plenty of experience with the electro-pop genre. His uncanny ability to take synthetically distorted “noise” and make it music is on full display here. Still, while the album’s unpolished sound is both innovative and appealing, at times the listeners might feel like they’re sitting in on a musical experiment rather than listening to a well-composed album. In “Golden Pendulum,” a repetitive and grating beat is juxtaposed with monotone vocals, falling flat with its scattered tinkerings.

A Brief History of Love is a pretty hefty subject to take on in a debut album, but The Big Pink proves it’s up to the challenge. Each track sums up a unique aspect of love: From the excitement of budding romance (“Too Young to Love”) to painful, drawn-out breakups (“Love in Vain”), the London duo touches all the bases. While A Brief History of Love may at times feel like a wonky experiment in electro music, its crooning vocals and innovative sound make up for these minute glitches.

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