On their second full-length release, London’s co-ed quartet Veronica Falls have successfully avoided the dreaded sophomore slump, for the most part. Such a stellar debut was a tough act to follow, and there’s no “shock of the new” on Waiting For Something To Happen, but their songwriting skill and musical confidence have strengthened nonetheless.
In fact, newness was never their strong suit— the group’s songs are so pure and to the point, it becomes difficult to distance them from their inspirations, and at times it’s hard to see Veronica Falls as more than just an assemblage of their influences. Upon first listen, many critics lumped them into the bands inspired by the seminal C86 collection released by UK music periodical New Musical Express (most apparently The Shop Assistants and The Pastels). But in interviews, the group’s members were quick to distance themselves from that source of inspiration, pointing more towards American indie-pop like Beat Happening and New Zealand’s The Chills and The Clean, and are clear that they never compose songs aimed at sounding “like this” or “like that.”
Just as on their eponymous debut, this baker’s dozen features three part harmonies led by guitarist Roxanne Clifford’s helium-fueled, honey-soaked soprano, strong tenor backing vocals from guitarist James Hoare (Your Twenties) and drummer Patrick Doyle (who was in Sexy Kids with Clifford), and muscular but subtle bass parts from the last piece of their puzzle, Marion Herbain. While it may seem like an apocryphal story to “twee” indie-pop afficcianados, it is in fact true that the Clifford and Doyle first met Hoare at a concert by England’s Comet Gain.
Highlights include the darkly brooding “If You Still Want Me,” the electric squall of feedback that kicks off the radiant onslaught of lava that follows in the single “My Heart Beats,” the slower vocal ballad “Daniel” and the delicate cuteness of the lyrics that begin “Shooting Star.” Their increase in confidence is marked by a differentiation away from the somewhat “twee” and fey debut (not to say wimpy) and there are some downright rocking moments, especially on the concluding cut, “Last Conversation,” wherein they evoke the chiming guitar underpinnings of The Wedding Present.
Veronica Falls have also moved away from singing about ghosts and graveyards, and seem to have a shinier happier, less “goth” and more “pop” approach on this collection. Having said that, there are broken hearts aplenty here, and “Buried Alive” begs its target to “bury me alive, I want to get sick, I want to catch everything you’ve ever caught,” but they are framed in such an tongue-in-cheek, upbeat, giddy fashion, thankfully the foursome are hard to misinterpret as goth kids this time around. Given that their closest musical antecedent is really The Mamas And The Papas, if the first record’s touchstone was “A Hazy Shade Of Winter” then perhaps Waiting’s is “California Dreamin.’” It’s a subtle difference to be sure, but a change nonetheless.
Compared to what was close to a perfect first record, Waiting For Something To Happen is not without its weaknesses. The group disregards the old industry adage to kick off the running order with their best track, and lead with the by-the-numbers weakest link, “Tell Me,” which quickly wears out its cloying welcome. Towards the end of the album, “Falling Out” and “So Tired” kind of blend together. Although the songs might be stronger on this outing, somehow they don’t stand up as well to repeated listens; perhaps Waiting For Something To Happen just shouldn’t happen on repeat too much. After all, just like the “Broken Toy” Clifford sings about on one track, the novelty can’t help but wear off after so many spins, especially when the music is so retrolicious at the outset.
Veronica Falls – Waiting for Something to Happen tracklist:
- “Tell Me”
- “Broken Toy”
- “Shooting Star”
- “Waiting for Something to Happen”
- “If You Still Want Me”
- “My Heart Beats”
- “Everybody’s Changing”
- “Buried Alive”
- “Falling Out”
- “So Tired”
- “Last Conversation”