The Big Pink – ‘Future This’

They might be better suited to the monochromatic murk of old

God knows what possessed them to say it. But since [a]The Big Pink[/a] have now disowned their claim that ‘Future This’ is some kind of hip-hop record, the question of why bands frequently feel the need to announce moves in every direction except the one they’re actually taking (hello, Persil-white indie-rock!) can be chewed over some other day. In any case, Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell’s second album isn’t done for by a lack of ambition, but rather the imagination required to realise it.

First though, what works. ‘A Brief History Of Love’, The Big Pink’s 2009 debut, had a soul, but it was dark and damaged. ‘Future This’ has a heart, and it is big and ebullient. ‘Stay Gold’, the album’s euphoric air-punch of an opener, finds Furze urging us to “Forgive your lovers but don’t forget their names” over a steampunk organ intro that skips into a climax deserving of its very own training montage. That same bounce and buoyancy carries through into ‘Hit The Ground (Superman)’, whose martinet piano march counts down to an IMAX-sized chorus, charting the course of a night that begins with “Blue plastic bags full of cans” and ends on a living-room floor carpeted with empties.

These two songs underline a not-so-secret agenda: ‘Future This’ wants very much to be a grand-scale pop record. Frustratingly, however, much of what follows can’t live up to that early promise. Furze and Cordell have eased off on the Sturm und Drone that gave ‘A Brief History…’ its sense of menace and mystery, but they seem unsure of what to replace it with, with too many songs falling back on interchangeable electro-rock tropes that could be the work of just about anyone. ‘Jump Music’, for instance, doesn’t amount to much more than anaemic [a]Kasabian[/a]-aping, and if you altered the pitch of Furze’s voice on ‘Rubbernecking’, you’d almost swear you were listening to [a]The Naked And Famous[/a].

That’s not to tar ‘Future This’ with the brush of outright failure; ‘Give It Up’ – the one song that really does bear an overt hip-hop influence, with its classy Ann Peebles sample and crisp, expertly constructed beat – is an obvious standout, and ‘77’ closes the album on a note that feels genuinely heartfelt and soul-bearing, an ode to a lost friend without whom Furze is “All fucked up/Sometimes I forget I miss you”. On what feels like it was intended to be a Technicolor coming-out-of-the-shadows, however, there’s the nagging suspicion that The Big Pink might be better suited to the monochromatic murk of old.

Barry Nicolson

Click here to listen to the album in full