Fusing emotional honesty with dream-pop
If The Strokes made the rock’n’roll ideal real again, and The Rapture reinvented dancing as an alt-imperative, it was the holy triptych of chart-botherers Klaxons, MGMT and Passion Pit who restored pop to its rightful position as a dream machine, rescuing it from the ladrock authenticity police and ’90s ironists like Beck, who demystified pop by scoffing at the pre-Cobain ideal of actually believing the lie, the illusion. When the illusion is uncannily and perfectly realised, they call it ‘pure pop’. And when pure pop is taken to its logical extreme – rendered hyper-real and assembled entirely from love, Lego and ear candy – what you get is Passion Pit, still fighting the good fight with ‘Gossamer’.
If Klaxons and MGMT’s futurism was tainted by a retro undertone, Passion Pit can only be a product of the new millennium. Track two ‘I’ll Be Alright’ is truly modern pop: starbursting indie-dance, where a kitsch J-pop sensibility meets hyperkinetic ’ardcore rave – but life-affirming in the way only Passion Pit can be. The stage is set for a second album of frantically fantastical synthetica, permanently on emotional high alert, like a hormonal version of Sonic The Hedgehog.
‘Carried Away’ is a brilliantly sexless blend of Wham!-style pop and Brady Bunch choruses, while ‘Cry Like A Ghost’, with its helium-soul diva and vainglorious chorus, comes off like a Scissor Sisters ballad in cyberspace. The preposterous ‘Love Is Greed’ offers a three-way split between The Big Pink, The Mae Shi and Mozart. ‘Hideaway’ feeds Eurodisco and Daft Punk’s ‘Superheroes’ through Those Dancing Days, while ‘It’s Not My Fault I’m Happy’ is Arcade Fire meets Laurie Anderson.
With some annoying cartoon-theme choruses and a surplus of rainbows and butterscotch bunnies, one quibble is that ‘Gossamer’ never really comes down off its Haribo rush, which gets exhausting. That said, when they do ease up, as on the boudoir-funk ‘Constant Conversations’, it resembles the two-a-penny synthpop that clogs the blogosphere.
Blending The Antlers-style heartbreak with M83’s cinematic theatrics, string-laden closer ‘Where We Belong’ pricks your heart with frontman Michael Angelakos’ embittered question: “[i]Who says that God exists?[/i]” But it’s the treatment on his voice, rendering it tiny and frail, that makes it so devastating, so hopeless. It’s a reminder that the Luddite grit-rockers are missing the point. Because ‘superficial pop bollocks’ often contains more truth in its dishonesty and plastic studio-trickery. What does pain or, for that matter, love feel like when you’re young? Some sad-sack and a banjo, or a mushrooming ‘kaleido-loop’ of E-numbers and overwhelming emotion? Fuck Stereophonics. Tell us lies, sweet little lies.