Following the release of their Chunk Of Change EP earier this year, Passion Pit found their way to the top of every tipster’s list for 2009. Now they’ve finally got round to dropping a full length album. So were the tipsters right?
Well, yes. Kind of. Manners is a great album. But it’s not the album that you would necessarily have expected if you’d heard the EP. The low production values have been left behind and with Sleepyhead being the only track that’s survived on to the full album, the amateur charm of the likes of the LCD Soundsystem-aping Smile Upon Me and the ridiculously joyous Better Things have been discarded. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, but rather than replacing those tracks, Passion Pit have instead upped the stakes and gone in a remarkably assured direction towards being the kind of band that has its sights set on conquering stadiums.
Opening track Make Light sets things straight. A really good song and a solid start to the album. But there are no surprises lurking on it. In fact, as the album progresses the big surprise is how consistent and professional it all sounds. It’s Sleepyhead, hidden towards the end, that stands out from the rest of the album as a moment of true invention, marrying folk samples and ethereal other-worldly sounds with maniacal synths and vocals.
However, there is so much to love on Manners that the band’s moving on doesn’t mark the end of its enjoyment. It just isn’t really the album Chunk Of Change led us to expect and those expecting the same type of experimentalism may end up disappointed.
Even so, it would be misleading to say that there’s no innovation here. There are a lot of ideas, and every song is packed with energy. The likes of Little Secrets, complete with a kids’ choir refrain, and lead single The Reeling are both dynamite slabs of synth-pop that follow on from the likes of Justice and Chromeo. Meanwhile the epic Moth’s Wings and To Kingdom Come are more traditional, confirming that Passion Pit can turn their hand to different styles and pull them off.
The pace stays consistent throughout with just Swimming In The Flood breaking up the tempo and slowing things down a little at the halfway point. Serving the same purpose as I Believe served Simian Mobile Disco on their Attack Decay Sustain Release album, its appealing melody and textured strings help it get away with the niggling feeling that it could have existed in a previous life as a Living In A Box album track.
Above all, Manners is a pop album. Refreshingly free of pretensions and convolutions it’s full of well-written songs with melody and fun at its big heart. Packed full of pop hooks, every song has a charm and having 11 “actually good” tracks is something we’re not used to these days. Towards its conclusion, Folds In Your Hands and To Kingdom Come both offer up some seriously uplifting choruses, and the glorious energetic Let Your Love Grow Tall confirms its overall upbeat and positive nature.
Passion Pit are following on from what MGMT achieved last year in merging rock ethics and electro sounds in an unforced way – something that, over the years, has proven difficult to accomplish successfully. While it’s difficult to tell whether they have the singles to match the success of the likes of Kids, Electric Feel or Time To Pretend, they actually have a better album as a whole. If the high-pitched voice of Michael Angelakos turns out to not be such a major issue, the band could even find themselves following the career trajectory of the likes of The Killers and could do something very special this year.