It’s been a while arriving, but, having been posted second class, Envelopes’ third album is finally with us. And it doesn’t hang around, eleven songs darkening our doormat for thirty minutes before they’re gone, taking their big bag of influences with them.
Talking Heads are the first band to come to mind when listening to the Swedes, though they wear these influences well for the most part. The versatility that comes from having a vocalist from each sex up front is exploited, and Frenchwoman Audrey Pic complements Henrik Orrling rather nicely.
Her lasting contribution is a solo, however, the affecting Boat describing the worry of a mother as her husband takes two weeks’ passage at sea. “She thinks she’ll soon die”, sings Pic, and you will for her to pull through.
The following Put On Hold, however, brings forward the band’s propensity for trying just a bit too hard. The vocoder, stamping drum beat, snippets of synthesizer, accordion and wistful vocals are all too weird to match up properly, the result something of an unsynchronized muddle. Or, if you prefer to view it through different glasses, three minutes of off the wall pop genius.
For sure, it’s good to experiment, but the album finds Envelopes struggling to assert a common identity. Graceful yet anguished, extrovert yet introvert, often within the same song. Take opening track and most recent single Party, where Orrling wails desperately, “If there’s a party, can I come?”, before the facade cracks and he notes, with help from Bonnie Tyler, that “once upon a time I was falling in love, now I’m only falling apart, totally fucked from the start”.
It’s a line delivered with a kind of cheery resignation, but captures the album’s split personality at the same time. Smoke In The Desert struggles too to assert itself, dressing up smartly as a post punk nugget but ultimately a kind of forced retro.
More effective is I’d Like To C U – a fun pop song. And when Henrik sings “I wanna go to the mountain to the snow” in Heaven, you’ll want to join him.
Ultimately these moments of pop and helter-skelter punk inflections lead to an enjoyably madcap but frustrating album, struggling to make total sense.