Every once in a while, one stumbles across a record that is totally unheralded and yet somehow hits all the listener’s sweet spots. With the caveat that those “sweet spots” are highly subjective, this is such an album. The 12 songs here have sprung forth so fully formed and self-assured that one could mistake them for a veteran act lost in the wrinkles of time and tinnitus. And yet, their approach is so meek, so unassuming, so effortlessly twee, yet brimming with hushed intensity, that it’s clear one could pass them on a Milwaukee street corner and not even bat an eye. What a shame that would be.
The record starts strong and only gets better. Thankfully, New York’s Captured Tracks label didn’t pass them up on the cyber-street-corner, as they signed Veronica Falls to release their first single 10 minutes after the band launched their Myspace page. That first single, “Found Love in a Graveyard,” could in one sense serve as Veronica Falls’ manifesto and kicks off the London quartet’s first long-player. Given the opening notes, it would be easy to mistake them for retro-goth cellar-dwellers, but nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, their winsome melodies sparkle and shine like a silver stream sparkling on a sunny, crisp autumn day. Sure, there’s a ghostly chill and a sense that winter is soon coming, but for now, all is lovely, if spooky.
Could “The Fountain” be a female-framed response to The Smiths’ “Reel Around The Fountain,” or is it an argument to refuse The Wedding Present’s Take Fountain? The plea to “Stephen” is girded by a Nirvana-like bassline, but it has Helium highs built upon it, whereas its successor, “Beachy Head,” sounds like Beat Happening’s “Bad Seeds” on meth. Veronica Falls are bold, too—they don’t have to bring on Peter Buck as a contributor (like The Decemberists did) to borrow a page from R.E.M.’s “Talk About The Passion” on the track they name for themselves (although they end up sounding like a less-strident version of The Shangri-Las filtered through The Primitives). Nor do they apologize for sounding like Galaxie 500 doing R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” at the beginning of the next cut, the closer “Come On Over.” Once it gets going, they break into a jangly distort-gallop a la The Raveonettes with Beach Boys-like backing vocals. There could not be more perfect (and seasonally fitting) prequel to the lounging wintry cheesiness of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” than this, and throughout, it’s clear thematically that there could not be a better soundtrack to fall than Veronica Falls.
Simply put, the pace is sometimes shambling, the backbeats pulsate, the soprano vocals with tenor backing enunciate and swoon, and this is perfect power pop for today’s “now” indie-rock kid.
There are antecedents, without question. Imagine if the Cannanes had made the record everyone always hoped for, if Lush had done Spooky with acoustic guitars, or if The Pains of Being Pure At Heart did an MTV Unplugged, if Black Tambourine hadn’t been relegated to the “influence” bin, or if Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, Frankie Rose and the Outs all made their best records. What if The Pastels were still around, The Bangles were still on a tiny indie label, or if The Velvet Underground had decided to continue and had somehow magically morphed into Camera Obscura?
That such an unknown ensemble could assemble such a sweet relish tray of succulent delights with a traditional guitar-bass-drums lineup, using Beach Boys harmonies and the sonic structures first erected by auteurs such as Phil Spector, more than 10 years into the 21st century is a testament to the strength of their sterling songwriting and wholly remarkable, hook-laden melodies.
Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls tracklist:
- “Found Love in a Graveyard”
- “Right Side of My Brain”
- “The Fountain”
- “Bad Feeling”
- “Beachy Head”
- “All Eyes on You”
- “The Box”
- “Wedding Day”
- “Veronica Falls”
- “Come on Over”