"Like the all the best one dimensional pop records this should be overplayed for a month, enjoyed for a while longer and then filed away, ripe for rediscovery a few years down the line."
The Concretes – Concretes in Colour
Music writers are, by nature, a lazy bunch. Give us a press release with a box full of hoary cliches and before you know it...hey, another glowing review to add to the pile. However, Scandinavia's The Concretes may have taken all this a little too far. Whatever happens you don't want to take the best metaphor available to some rent-a-hack and name the album after it. There's no better way to describe the group's flowering from purveyors of icy vignettes and gentle melodies to pure 60s pop than, well, this being The Concretes In Colour.
Without being too curt that's all there is to it: If you were one of the many that loved their previous releases then prepare yourself for something a little more upbeat. If you're a fan of traditional meat-and-two-veg indie pop than this will be heaven. Just don't expect the planets to collide and to undergo any or any great revelations; these are solid, catchy love songs guaranteed to brighten up your day but not soundtrack the summer. But it's clear that while the veil may have been lifted to reveal myspace-friendly hooks the bitter heart still remains. Following up their sleeper hit self-titled debut would be no easy task - it oozed name dropping potential amongst those scenesters just off indie - and they've certainly attempted something special.
The album is all done in the best of intentions as a shot at the big time, a fact that can hardly be begrudged, yet the exercise is perilously at risk of falling between two stools. Is this a mainstream album? Something that could be a crossover hit? Well Chosen One and On the Radio certainly suggest as much. They're wonderfully simple tracks in the classic Motown-pop vein, sharing as much with fellow construction types The Foundations as anything around at the moment. Its pop music for a generation sold on "cash rock" ((c) Incendiary Mag). As vocalist Victoria Bergsman sings on the former a ridiculously catchy song on love and mumbles in cod-English about - we can only presume - various radio transmissions, on the other hand there's a sense of nostalgia for some apocryphal alternate reality. This is the place of Ray Davis' dream, where kids play on the green, doctors still recommend a pack of Marlboro Lights for your cough and teenager rush home from the local emporium with the latest batch of 7"s. If the conditions were right then half of this album would be in the charts.
But while the music may be right, the world isn't. We've moved on from the blissful 60s that only existed in the mind of the most optimistic hippie. The album may be enjoyable but is there much substance? Originality? Sure, that may not be the point but there needs to be some real spark or statement to lift The Concretes' deserving cause beyond mid-ranking indie band. Your Call doesn't help, coming across more Magic Numbers b-side than classic duet. The odd slip in MOR country territory on Grey Days raises eyebrows and, far worse, some tracks fail to create a reaction at all.
Yet for all its faults this is an album that you will return to. Like the all the best one dimensional pop records this should be overplayed for a month, enjoyed for a while longer and then filed away, ripe for rediscovery a few years down the line. The Concretes aren't going to change anyone's world but with The Concretes In Colour they've certainly let a little bit more light in.
Words: James Waterson.