You know when you meet a friend you haven’t seen for a long while, only to realise you’re having the exact same conversation you had last time, which mainly consists of, “So, what have you been up to?” “Er, not much.” “Oh. Remember that time we…?”?
That’s a bit what Love Is All’s second album is like. While we’ve fond memories of the simple, innocent rush evoked by the exuberant, skronky, shonky, saxy Scandi post-punk-pop of their debut ‘Nine Times That Same Song’, it doesn’t sound like a whole lot has gone on in their lives over the past two-and-a-half years.
And yet, a lot has. There’ve been marriages, children, a new saxophone player… so why, right from misleadingly named opener ‘New Beginnings’, does déjà vu creep in? It sounds like almost exactly the same record, just not as slap-in-the-face fresh. Still, if it’s more of the same, at least the same is pretty good.
Lyrically, child-voiced singer Josephine Olausson takes on the role of black-humoured, bleak-hearted singleton, casting a wry eye over her own and others’ romantic failures. On the Wire-ish, wiry ‘Give It Back’ she’s spurned and hurt, barking “forget I ever mentioned my heart”, her crushed disappointment transmuted into a manic, distracted energy, on the run from its own lyrical conclusions. On ‘Last Choice’, with its tiptoeing keys and disco-handclap beat, she bitterly laughs off a last-one-on-the-shelf one-night stand over mockingly chirpy keys.
‘Movie Romance’, by contrast, is a celebration of a new relationship that’s “far more than a thrill”, but even this feels unhealthily delusive and manic, unable to support its own elation. On the Television-meets-Essential Logic serrated worrywarts’ anthem ‘Big Bangs, Black Holes, Meteorites’ she’s taking the whole weight of the universe on her brain, shrieking among battering drums of her inability to sleep for fear of cosmic disaster.
Among all this perkily delivered existential angst, ‘Sea Sick’ seems just a bit silly; a child’s short story of a song about an ocean cruise. ‘Wishing Well’ is even more cringingly cutesy, Olausson simpering “I’ve caused another fine mess/There’s blood on my shoes and I stained my dress” like some sort of indie Worst Witch.
When they’re not playing to the schmindie bloggers’ gallery, though, Love Is All can still thrill, as on the XTC-ish closer ‘19 Floors’, where the cymbal-whipped, bass-urged game of musical tag drives forward Olausson’s tale of near-autistic lonerdom. Still, we can’t help but feel like we’re just racing around over old ground.