The most satisfying thing about getting to know Veronica Falls is discovering their hidden side; the side the shy and bashful band only show once you’ve invested enough time in them and can see past the sickly, sugary-sweet gloss they coat over anything. On first listen they’re the annoyingly upbeat, viewing the world through rose tinted glasses and neatly bobbed hair, with a perma-grin slapped across their face. And then you listen to the lyrics.
It’d be fair to say they’ve got form when it comes to disguising their true intent; this is the band whose 2012 debut served up Beachy Head – an infectious combination of surf guitars and pouted vocals…about a notorious Sussex suicide spot; teen gothy romance Found Love In A Graveyard; and the not so secretly miserable, Misery. But still, the charming indiepop that forms the follow up to their self-titled first album is satisfyingly tongue in cheek and knowingly cruel.
They claim the C86 scene has never been an influence for them – a statement more likely used as a smokescreen to divert people away from lumping them in the same stable as their more conventional genre-mates than an accurate depiction of the band’s early musical tastes. Veronica Falls are a cocktail of C86, shoegaze and lo-fi boy/girl vocals. The Pastels are their main ingredient – providing a loose, jangly backing for singer Roxanne Clifford’s disaffected vocals that, in equal parts, channel Lush’s Emma Anderson and Belly-era Tanya Donelly. The result is a sort of highly polished ode to indie circa ’86-’94 – there’s a lot to get out of it, and occasionally it shines, but the studious approach Veronica Falls take can extinguish any fire that might be crackling in their bellies. The DIY ethic and endearing chaos that characterises bands of their ilk is absent; an academic A* but when it comes to passion and excitement, they’re bottom of the class.
To that extent Waiting For Something To Happen is business as usual, building on the sound they crafted for their debut. When we saw them preview songs from it in an east London basement back in November, we speculated that it sounded more grown up than album number one; even more polished, with a slight shift in themes, we reckoned it would see the band mature and explore the complexities of life. And what do you know…we were right.
When the gloom seeps through, it’s even more closely guarded; where before, Wedding Day was a thinly veiled sneer (“Sorry I missed your wedding day, I didn’t know just what to say, except that you don’t look at her like you’re looking at me,”) now Clifford’s pearly voice works its way through the likes of Bury Me Alive, resignedly sighing: “I don’t care if people cry, I want get sick, I want to catch everything thing you’ve caught”; the decidedly downbeat If You Still Want Me, which is disguised with The Wedding Present’s break-neck speed guitars; and Daniel, a heart breaking, whispered plea to a lost love. Elsewhere, highlights include the album’s title track; a simple, neat song that makes the most of Clifford’s icy vocals and Tell Me, which channels Orange Juice, with driving, looping guitars.
Waiting For Something To Happen is the natural successor to Veronica Falls; the same as before but a bit tighter, more complete and considered. There are rewards to be had for perseverance but, just like before, we’re left wishing they’d loosen up a bit.