After listening, it's clear why Gold-Bears
titled their sophomore album Dalliance
— it nevertheless doesn't sound like one. On the contrary, it's heartfelt. The Atlanta punk outfit have an earnestness to them, a gratifying lo-fi cheer that keeps catchy, even when they're getting moody and vindictive, in the way that a band named after Haribo candy and self-described as 'crash pop' probably should. Every number reels with jumpy, buzzing guitar, relentless percussion, humming with an excitability Gold-Bears seem unable to abstain from (even where it doesn't fit.)
is transportive. It makes me nostalgic for the late 90s in a way I shouldn't be because at the end of 1999 I was six. The synaesthetics of this album are basement shows, laughter under streetlights, aimless crawls through suburbs in your dad's old Volvo. All things that probably weren't as I imagine them. Things I would surely misremember if I'd experienced them in the first place. And there's something of that misremembering in Dalliance
Looking back to their first album for a comparison will sting a little (or maybe a lot if you're Gold-Bears.) The story arc is woundingly clear-cut, the question posed by 2010's Are You Falling in Love?
answered curtly by its follow-up. It's an album that deals in bitterness, down to its title, which seems to be a retrospective ruling on the collapsed relationship at the album's center. The sound as a whole is a little too uniform — every track jangles, sometimes uncomfortably, as on the ought-to-be-morose "I Hope They're Right." The more unremarkable songs bleed together. And the band's energy can get the better of them — sometimes strained vocals often are overwhelmed by the wall of noise. But the lyrics that do crest into audibility are a tangle. The speaker perpetually toes the lines between blaming his ex and blaming himself. On "Death with Drums": "She compensates, she compensates for everything / except for all those lies." And on "I Hope They're Right": "Because no one can be blamed beside myself." And on "Hey, Sophie": "For better or worse / This is life."
Looking back on a failed love as Dalliance
does means the opportunity to remember selectively — to demonize or apologize. Trying to healthily balance the urge to cut a person up with the urge to blame yourself. Left-over tenderness suffused with resentment. It's all there in Dalliance
, wearing a sonic grin that invites you to come and share in the joyful misery.
You can catch the album now, available on iTunes
, and you can listen to the band's single "For You" below.