Album review: The Big Pink – ‘A Brief History Of Love’

Debut from the scenesters du jour drips with distortion, anthems and... soul

‘A Brief History Of Love’? That’s a big undertaking. Love’s infinite and sublime vicissitudes have proved a draw for creative sorts since time immemorial, its landscape mapped by every artist who ever felt the rush of oxytocin to the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Not that Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell are daunted. This year’s recipients of the Philip Hall Radar Award, they’ve crafted a sound that could variously be described as ‘big’ and ‘fuck-off massive’. This is evident from the first minute of their debut, when ‘Crystal Visions’’ ambient atmosphere of chiming guitars is exploded in a wave of gristly feedback and droning vocal – if anyone’s got the scale to ‘do love’, then it’s probably them.

They may have named themselves after an album by The Band, but their influences lie closer to home, with the spectre of [a]The Jesus And Mary Chain[/a] casting a shadow over the record like a smack dealer at a house party. You can see it in the press shots, leather of jacket and red of eye, you can hear it in the casual nihilism of their lyrics (sample: “We’re better off dead” Furze sings over and over again on ‘Count Backwards From Ten’). But most of all, you can hear it in the music; when these guys aren’t thinking about love they’re thinking about effects pedals. Single ‘Dominos’ sees them taking casual heartlessness to new levels over a bank of guitars that the Reid brothers would have given their Wayfarers for.

However, on repeated listens the broad strokes of shoegaze peel away to reveal muscular subtleties. There may be shades of lad-rock in Furze’s inebriated croon, but it’s Milo Cordell’s history as honcho of Merok Records – the achingly hip early adopter of music by Klaxons and Crystal Castles – that gives a truer indication of the progressive electronic leanings at play. ‘Tonight’ is saved from baggy anonymity by a shower of 8-bit bleeps and a sandblast of distortion more suited to [a]HEALTH[/a] than The High, while ‘Velvet’’s stadium-shaped indie is given character by the digitised twangs and metallic, [a]Autechre[/a]-style percussion. Listen to ‘Golden Pendulum’’s two-step syncopation and call these boys retro-fetishists, we dare you. Indeed, The Big Pink never sacrifice their anthemic properties for cerebral navel-gazing. Like [a]My Bloody Valentine[/a]’s ‘Loveless’, this is an album created from a sensual palette of sound, with the emotional resonances deriving from the method of its construction.

Yet, for all the bluster, the album’s most satisfying moment comes when the boys drop things down a gear and call in vocalist Valentine Fillol Cordier for the woozy title track, a song that captures that heart-crushing feeling of a night-long talk followed by a break-up at dawn. Among the sea of distortion and skewed emotion that characterises ‘A Brief History Of Love’, it’s a moment of clarity that grabs you by the aorta and forces you to feel. It’s this ability that makes The Big Pink so special for, beneath the dissonance, the artful posturing and the pop hooks is something far more enduring: these guys have got a soul and they’re not afraid to bare it.

Louise Brailey

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