The idealization and romanticism of metropolitan living and aesthetics, while seemingly uniform in its idiocy, is not lacking in ways of uniqueness. Depending upon the city, in this case the two most culturally forward cities in America, Los Angeles and New York, there are but two ways one can caricature them. In the case of New York, any idiot living outside as well as inside the city can be fooled by the post-Giuliani carnival of unbroken dreams beset before them be it on television as advertised by Candace Bushnell or right in front of that odious golden bull, it’s roughly the same hellish, misleading facade. On the other hand, it takes a special kind of retard to idolize that which makes the center of the left coast, take me for instance. I’m not talking about The Hills, which is a by product of some kind of mental condition of the whole country preventing itself from spiraling into confused chaos with self-satisfied malaise. I’m talking about people like me. People who read too much Chandler, Ellroy or Nathanael West. People whose favorite movie is Sunset Blvd., Barton Fink or The Big Lebowski. The kind of people that see Los Angeles as a landscape of their erotic/existential neuroses. Los Angeles is so pleasant looking that it must be the place where one can wallow in perfect sin and still find time to redeem one’s self if one so chooses. It’s dangerous thinking, the kind of thinking perfect for a rendering not unlike the lunacy put forth in Reefer Madness. Darker My Love, who claim this city as their home, is the kind of band that does little to humble my disorder with their thick, ear-raping wall of sex, sweat and psychedelics.
Darker My Love conducts themselves with a kind of swagger, a swagger that keeps the band fully inebriated by its own volume and thick but pop-hewn riffs. Romantics and idealism permeate from within these two elements, though they are wrapped in a leather jacket. The sheer loudness of their sound ruptures rather than pulsates — as any sensible pop act would do — and is awake in the moment, a moment that feels like the end of some kind of self-explorative revelation. Not knowing what such a revelation would be, 2 turns into a soundtrack of some sordid, optimistic fantasy giving me the sense that I can indulge in whatever disgraces I want and I’ll turn out fine while the weather, for the most part, remains stiflingly hot and blindingly sunny.
Guitars take priority over all else. Sleaze riffs are flaunted shamelessly in the opener “Northern Soul,” they buzz with the immediacy of a tripped alarm, a kind of delivery that is consistent in the higher-octane tracks. At the same time songs will, on occasion, take on a tone that is the radical extreme of the aforementioned loudness. That being tenderness and naivety, a significantly softer approach where everything is turned down, the atmosphere is not stifled and the beautifully harmonic vocals can be heard and reveled in. The transition in itself is slightly unnerving. The first two tracks are loud exposés of bravado, then it shifts into sensitiveland. Posturing such as this is something I am on occasion to notice and am curious as to why it’s not yet a cliché. Not that tonal shifts should be all but done away with, but rather the more obvious ones, the ones that are put in albums to show that a band can be brash and cut-up but also vulnerable and, most importantly, radio and/or iPod ready.
Such is an example of a small setback for a fine band. Their pop chops as well as their polished harshness are nonetheless beautiful and sharp. And despite, or perhaps because, of their punk background, Darker My Love, along with The Black Angels to a certain extent, have been able to achieve what the hype vacuum The Dandy Warhols have certainly thought but have otherwise been unsuccessful in translating into actual sound, that being a new kind of glam rock, but a glam rock that is more or less wrapped up in atmosphere as opposed to image — image being the problem of The Dandies. Darker My Love wrap the listener in sonic ideals of some kind of utopia that is part Hell and part cool coastal city. The look matters slightly less than the initial feeling of what it’s like to be caught in a moment of freedom and one acts accordingly from there. I’m likely to be overthinking all of this, there are those who feel, nay they know, that loud Detroit riffs and harmonic hippie vocals are more faux artistic bullshit than aesthetic something or other, which is a very natural, acceptable consensus, part of the band’s sound, the psychedelic hints, is based in bullshit that made a whole generation seem free when it actually imprisoned them in their own mentally twisted dictatorships. But of course generations since then have been able to stave off madness with outlets for cynicism, musically and otherwise. Regardless, there is just as much sin in this album as there is salvation on this album, however it is up to the listener to judge as to which of those two satisfies his or her own hedonism.