Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Papercuts- 'You Can Have What You Want' (Memphis Industries)

Papercuts. Nasty things. Blood, sore, painful. All things Jason Robert Quever couldn't be accused of. He was bought up in a Christian commune in California. This would usually lead to a derogatory assessment of religious pop, but it seems to bear no relevance to what he's doing now. Or, if it does, it's hidden well enough that all but the most forensic listener would pass on by, oblivious.

The album trades a fine line in melodic pop, and brings to mind 'Chutes Too Narrow'-era Shins, particularly on 'Dictator's Funeral', which is full of the summery, retro stylings and entwining melodic lines they trade in. Opener 'Once We Walked In the Sunlight' has a firmly beating tune at its middle, and brings to mind the lamented Grandaddy with its keys and guitar interacting to lovely effect.

This record has been released on Devendra Banhart, and Andy Cabic of Vetiver's label, Gnomonsong. 'You Can Have What You Want' often seems, though, to have little in common with either of those artists, choosing West Coast pop over their folk stylings. Only 'Future Primitive' seems to bear some relation to the label bosses work, sounding like one of the choicer cuts from Devendra's 'Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon', with it's powerful 60s guitar lines tangling.

There are a few religious hints dropped throughout the record. A cheesy electronic church style organ features throughout, suggestive of his religious upbringing. It features prominently on 'The Machine Will Tell Us So', which does that slowburn epic indie thing really well, sounding not unlike a fuzzy version of Grizzly Bear. The title of 'A Peculiar Hallelujah' has obvious religious hints, but seems to be an odd tale of “boarding a plastic ship in the rain.”

That's just a guess though, as the vocals are so drenched in reverb that all they sound like is “blllarrrrhhhherraaarrrbbbooelllleeerrr.” The use of analogue recording adds a pleasing warmth to proceedings, but in trying to ape Deerhunter's production style without that band's clarity of aim, Papercuts ends up feeling a bit cold at heart. Like a baked Alaska.

The lethargy of the album eventually starts to get draining, the tracks merging into one slow paced trawl through melancholic pop songs, vocals emerging from another room. 'Jet Plane' is more guilty than the rest, it's melodies struggling to bloom under the leaden weight of its tempo.

Sometimes it feels like the production has been used to cover a lack of ideas within the music. And that's never a good thing. Too often it all fades into the background like that fey friend you have, with the long fringe and the stoop. As pretty, echoey pop with a paisley patterned look it makes nice swirls on the stereo. But something to have you whirling round your room, or to raise your pulse even slightly? Look elsewhere, son. Look elsewhere.

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