Couple – ‘Poptimism’ review: a mature return from Malaysian power pop stalwarts

The veteran band evolve their sound with mostly sparkling results

The last time Couple released an album, Instagram wasn’t a thing, Barack Obama had just been sworn in as President and the iPad did not yet exist. After releasing three records in the first half of their existence, Couple have gone a little quiet in the second, limiting their releases in the last decade to an EP and a handful of singles.

To say fans have been waiting for the release of the band’s fourth album ‘Poptimism’, would be an understatement. What should we expect from the record? The band, understandably, don’t deviate too far from the sound that got them here in the first place: fuzzy power pop guitars, big choruses and tales of love, romance and heartbreak. At the same time, this is also Couple 2.0, re-minted for the social media generation with more than a decade of evolution in tow.

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For a moment on opener ‘Malam Minggu’, it feels like nothing’s changed since 2009’s ‘Pop Take Masuk Radio’, with the track’s chiming guitars dancing around a head-bobbing tune while being enveloped by a warm jacket of harmonies.

From there, things start taking a left turn. ‘Let Me Love’ both represents the first indication of the band’s evolution and stylistically, the brightest way forward. There’s a bedroom pop quality to the track as the band resist their compulsion to go big by building the track from wispy programmed beats and cheery synths, allowing the band’s trademark retro melody time to settle intimately. It’s perhaps the most coherent amalgamation of the band’s classic sound and their newfound sense of experimentation.

This can be attributed to the band’s approach for this record. Couple jettisoned their usual process of building songs organically over time, opting instead to finish their songs during the recording process. This results in tracks such as ‘Be My Baby’ – which can liberally be described as a dance pop tune – a song that sounds like it was conceived around sequencers and drum machines. Fret not though, it all still sounds like Couple. Aidil Rusli’s songwriting never strays too far from home base, orbiting ‘Abbey Road’ and ‘Radio City’.

So the songs go where you expect them to, with the exception of ‘KTYT’, a restless pop-punk track featuring a metalcore breakdown with screaming vocals courtesy of Sekumpulan Orang Gila. Yes, on a Couple record.. It comes off as a little odd and jarring. On its own, it’s a catchy tune that has its place, just not among this set of songs.

Couple
Credit: Alipbata

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Couple have always trod a narrow lyrical space. They’ve kept things simple by alternating between love, romance, heartbreak and back again, and they continue to do the same on ‘Poptimism’. There is always a sense that their purpose as a band is more to write the perfect, universally embraced pop song rather than the deepest lyric, as they articulate on ‘Goddamn Mighty Tune’: “Everybody’s sitting in their rooms / Trying to write a goddamn mighty tune / A sure shot number one / That’s loved by everyone.

‘Poptimism’ may be the band’s most enjoyable record since ‘Top of the Pop’. There is a certain freshness and infectious energy that the band attack these songs with. The theme of their album titles makes it clear where the band’s focus lies – Couple are in the tune business and business is still good.

Details

Couple - Poptimism

  • Digital release date: September 23
  • Record label: Self Release
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