Those of you who are regular readers of this website may be feeling a slight twinge of d�j� vu. Surely, this debut album from Brooklyn inhabitants Chairlift has already been reviewed, not even six months ago, and a right critical mauling it received too. Well, you’d be right, but this previous incarnation was two songs shorter and was released without the considerable muscle of Columbia, who have decided everyone needs a second chance to hear what is a fairly tricky, somewhat unlovable collection of songs.
My esteemed colleague Darren Harvey pointed out in his previous review that Chairlift – aka Aaron Pfenning, Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly – have a slightly ‘interesting’ way with a lyric, be it the cloying, list-reading of opener Garbage, the line “I was trained in diversity, in the garden of puberty” that nearly ruins Planet Health or the complete nonsense of new track Le Flying Saucer Hat.
Throughout, they keep the listener at a relative distance, never really relinquishing the art-rock pose long enough to show anything close to emotion. The exception to the rule is the brilliant Bruises – you’ll recognise it from an iPod advert no doubt – which is a sublime mix of Polachek’s crooning vocals, delicate keyboard motifs and a sweet lyric about masochism.
Elsewhere, Evident Utensil skips along nicely, sounding like a strange mix of early ’80s pop and some cheesy horror film soundtrack (in fact, when the band first started their aim was to make music for haunted houses). This darker element is brought to fruition on the music for Territory (Home Alone), which features detuned synths, rumbling bass and brilliantly over the top backing vocals. Of the new songs, Le Flying Saucer Hat is a catchy slice of Stereolab-esque French pop, whilst Dixie Gypsy sees Aaron Pfenning take over lead vocals for another slice of swampy electro-pop that ambles along nicely whilst never really holding your attention.
Essentially, that’s the main problem with Does You Inspire You (ah, that title. It brings to mind a first year art project, or worse, a self-help book). None of the songs are particularly bad (although the droning Ceiling Wax tests that statement to its limits), it’s just that very few of them make any kind of impact. Sections of songs stand-out – the gorgeous latter half of Make Your Mind Up, the giant keyboard riff that unsettles Earwig Town – but there’s always a duff lyric or a vocal the other side of tuneful to bring it down again.
In being wilfully difficult and swamping their songs in a murky haze of keyboards and bass they appear to be doing themselves an injustice. Bruises is evidence that when they let the impenetrable, no doubt effortlessly on-trend curtain down they can make great pop songs.