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The Big Pink
A Brief History Of Love Stephen Burkett , September 14th, 2009 09:40

So this is what it feels like to be let down. These two east London networkers promise so much: to condense the most sublime of emotions into under an hour of eddying feedback and peaking noise. But for something that so readily associates itself with cartwheels of the senses, A Brief History Of Love is a bloodless, guiltless sop of a record that is thoroughly bereft of heart and, yes, of love.

It's a victim of its creators' hubris, that's for sure: listen to them exalt their work pre-release and you'd think they'd carved divinity from chemical dirt. But if that's the case, why do they sound so much like Kasabian? And, bar 'Velvet' and 'Too Young To Love', why does the rest of this debut feel so insubstantial? Throughout its course we get the same tricks repeated over and over (fuzzy guitars; vocals set to 'swoon'; cast-off atmospherics) with varying degrees of success, but as the likes of 'Love In Vain' and 'Golden Pendulum' slowly roll anonymously out of sight, the most telling thing you can say about A Brief History . . . is how utterly forgettable it is. And you're not meant to be able to forget love.

A Brief History . . . is not just a bad album — far better bands have made far worse debuts than this. It's an alarming collection of songs that suggests that within three years both protagonists will have given up and taken up a different occupation; that's how half-arsed and lazy it is, on the whole. Moreover, it's almost unbearably frustrating because The Big Pink can, when it suits them, show us something very pretty indeed. For example, the title track is a fine approximation of that woozy, narcotic fug that comes with the sunrise, and the two aforementioned singles throb like a fresh wound, wet to the touch and still painful; for a few moments it feels like the bitter affair might end well.

'Tonight' lumbers with the thick-fingered gracelessness of a wrestler doing needlework, fumbling and coughing all over itself embarrassingly. It thuds and plods like something Kasabian or latterday The Verve would think about discarding; considering what good game The Big Pink talk, no one could have been expecting this. 'Dominos' too, blessed as it is with an earworm chorus, is a masterpiece of nothingness built around one half-decent hook and the cynical sentiment of two rich kids playing at deviance having conned the world into thinking they've got soul.

'At War With The Sun', bold and noisy as it may be, rattles emptily, borne on wings borrowed from The Horrors' shoegaze reinvention and barely sustained by the force of its own self-belief. 'Frisk', too, rolls gently downhill before coming to a stop in exactly the same place it started. And closer 'Count Backwards From Ten' finishes with a whimper that sounds like the closest approximation of something meaningful that they can muster. This is sixth-form poetry and imagery dressed up as genius and, subsequently, staggeringly mundane.

This story of adoration and obsession is cynicism masquerading as insight, arrogant entitlement pretending to be artistic endeavour. It reeks of blind, vampiric egotism fed by a coterie of blank fools who wouldn't know real love if it came and murdered them in the night. It is, bar a couple of not-all-that-notable exceptions, a depressingly constant act of emotional cannibalism: whatever faith and love and hope you place in this band, they will eat it and shit it back out. The only people this will album will 'matter' to are incapable of love.

But there's no reason to feel bad. The Big Pink don't deserve you — they never loved you back, and never will. You're better than that.