Fuck you, Brooklyn, and your faultless DIY art-pop scene. You’re probably sick of having your dick sucked these days, aren’t you? Well lie back and think of Obama, because it’s happening again.
Chairlift are the latest group to arrive from NYC and, like Mirror Mirror or Effi Briest, look more like a cult. They may dress like idiots but everything that’s wrong with this band begins and ends with the kaftans. What’s extraordinary about Chairlift is the uninhibited nature of their ambition. From folk to trip-hop to power pop, each song on this record fizzes with lyrical complexity and glowing production values. Unlike Vampire Weekend or MGMT there’s been no hype machine behind them; one day they just turned up as a grand proposition – not an art band to perch on the fringes, but a gossamer avant-garde group who might actually sell an album or two.
Of course, that’s mostly down to ‘Bruises’ – the gawkily naïve duet which skips along with enough nursery rhyme fantasy to convince people to spend money on iPods while Icelandic billionaires are making bread out of sand. This Juno-pop is merely one of many guises Chairlift wear and the naiveté is evidently affected; compare it to the satirical glory of ‘Planet Health’, which is Radiohead’s ‘Fitter Happier’ for the macro-bio’n’Botox beauty generation. Or the Euro-disco of album climax ‘Flying Saucer Hat’, sung in French through Grace Jones’ pouting lips and contrasting starkly with the abstract Eno synthetics of the preceeding ‘Ceiling Wax’.
Swathed as it is in the kind of ’80s arrangements of flutes and chiming guitars that have rarely been allowed beyond Carol Decker’s lushest, most velveteen fantasies, this album is an open goal to accusations of trend-following revivalism. But, like Ladyhawke’s debut, the sheer quality of songwriting justifies any retrospective leanings they may have. At the centre of its success is singer Caroline Polachek’s schizophrenic vocals. She’s Alison Goldfrapp on ‘Home Alone’, Nico-next-door on ‘Evident Utensil’ and er, Enya on ‘Earwig Town’’s fearsome pleasantries. When she nails it lyrically, as on ‘Planet Health’ and ‘Bruises’, she shows an ability to fly between moods with utter confidence, and while on the eco-lobbying ‘Garbage Town’ and ‘Evident Utensil’’s philosophising about the significance of the pencil the ideas are grander than their execution, there isn’t one bland moment of writing here. Brooklyn, it’s all going your way at the moment. Fuck you.