In the post-popist age we live in, using the phrase “singles band” to describe a group such as The Big Pink is seen as condescending or reductive, or, at the very least, poor etiquette. So, I’ll put it more diplomatically: The Big Pink are exceptionally skilled at writing and producing singles. The London duo’s 2009 debut, A Brief History of Love, held together well as a whole, but nothing on it glowed with such burning intensity and headphone-rattling sound as its two big singles, “Dominos” and “Velvet.” The latter, a heady shoegazer track dripping with emotion and rack effects, was the critical favorite, and for good reason, while the former had the kind of earworm quality that essentially guaranteed it would become a popular favorite, big enough for stadiums, tangibly fierce enough for a memorable club experience, and entirely appropriate to play at the beach.
Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell are still making colossal, and colossally fun, distortion-laden singles, and the duo has frontloaded their second album, Future This, with two of them – “Stay Gold” (which pretty much sounds exactly like “Dominos”) and “Hit the Ground (Superman)”. If you’ve spent some time with “Velvet” or “Dominos,” then you probably have a good idea of what these tracks sound like. They’re both loaded with dense, fuzzy production, trunk-rattling beats and lyrics about girls, flying, etc. And they’re both pretty good, “Hit Me Up (Superman)” in particular, though neither is necessarily all that surprising.
For the sake of sequencing, putting the singles up front was a wise decision, as Future This grows more diverse and stylistically interesting from track three on. That very track, “Give It Up,” is one of the album’s best, with a funky, soulful swagger built on chopped-up string and horn samples. The nearly six-minute “1313” sputters and whirrs like recent Radiohead, boasting all the hooks of a song like “Velvet” with a sparser arrangement, and a chorus that Bono would envy. There’s a heavy dose of rave synth on “Rubbernecking,” some sharp jabs of guitar on “Jump Music,” and a dark atmosphere reminiscent of classic Depeche Mode on “Lose Your Mind.”
The Big Pink take more interesting detours than great leaps forward on Future This, though this strategy mostly pays off, the album offering an admirable balance of populist club anthems and some more adventurous deep cuts. The initial buzz that accompanied their debut may have worn off a bit, but the talent behind it definitely hasn’t, and this album is evident that The Big Pink is worth more than the sum of its singles.
TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
Chapterhouse – Whirlpool
School of Seven Bells – Alpinisms
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.