Full of joyful enthusiasm, Grouplove’s 2011 debut album Never Trust A Happy Song was an irresistible collection of sunny indie pop songs. While the record was almost too glossy and polished for its own good at times, with tracks such as the infectious Colours and party anthem Tongue Tied leading the way, there was enough substance to suggest that the California-based quintet had the potential to go on and achieve something special.
Three years later and Grouplove return with that all-important second album, Spreading Rumours. The second album syndrome is something often attached to bands that were once considered bright prospects – as is the case with Grouplove – and there is clearly a great deal riding on the band’s latest LP. Having risked falling into anonymity by going under the radar for so long, the five-piece have placed added importance on the quality of Spreading Rumours.
Despite the pressure to build on a promising debut, Grouplove’s return continues to display their unwavering ambition – even if it does mean they take the odd misstep every now and again. Opener I’m With You kicks things off in glorious fashion, with a delightful piano melody eventually developing into a trippy beat, as lead singer Christian Zucconi wails: “This is mine to follow/ this is hope/ That it’s all I know that I have seen it through/ this is all I can do.”
After the gentle introduction to the album, Borderlines and Aliens provides a punchier and more frantic reminder of what Grouplove can do. The song’s crunching beat and huge hooks deliver a perfectly shambolic party anthem in the manner that their debut managed to do repeatedly, with Zucconi and second vocalist Hannah Hooper trading vocals back and forth, before combining on the addictive chorus to repeatedly yell: “One by one, they fall.”
The Arcade Fire-esque vocal interchanging between Zucconi and Hooper also features on one of the standout tracks, first single Ways To Go – a song that demonstrates the electronic advances in Grouplove’s sound. The penetrating synth beat bursts into life on its addictive, throbbing chorus, as Hooper sings in her sweet vocal “I got a little bit longer”, before Zucconi replies “I got a ways to go”.
Shark Attack continues the strong opening half of Spreading Rumours – even if it is a bit all over the place. “I am what I am: a natural disaster,” bawls Zucconi, over electro slabs and scaling hooks, before the more straightforward Sit Still follows with its catchy, clapped beat and unobtrusive piano melody. However, at almost an hour long, Spreading Rumours does, unsurprisingly, lose its way somewhat towards the end, as Grouplove attempt to do too much.
Hippy Hill is one track that feels unnecessary in the grand scheme of the album, with its baggy, sparse melody trying too hard to deliver in the anthem stakes, as Zucconi belts out the rather mawkish lyric: “I’d rather be a hippy than a hipster.” What I Know and Didn’t Have To Go are better – and probably the closest Grouplove have got to straight out rock and roll – but the ambling, directionless Bitin’ The Bullet unfortunately fails to keep up the momentum. Thankfully, closer Save The Party For Me makes up for it, by delivering a proper sing-a-long anthem to bring the record to its conclusion.
It was around this time last year that London synth pop band Crystal Fighters released their second album, Cave Rave. With a sound that is not a million miles away from Grouplove, they managed to produce a collection of songs perfect for the summer months. The same could be said of Spreading Rumours, which is another album that could just as easily provide the soundtrack to Summer 2014. Not only that, it is confirmation that Grouplove remain a force to be reckoned with.