There are few things that grind my gears quite like grown men attempting to be ‘cute’. I can handle a predilection for tack, but overstepping the mark into twee invariably sets my bullshit-o-meter off, screaming not unlike Tom Araya does 20 seconds into Slayer’s ‘Angel of Death’. I cite Slayer because I am a man, man. I like beer, football and 80s action films. So here I am reviewing Are You Falling in Love?, the debut full-length by self-proclaimed ‘twee-punk’ band, Gold-Bears. A match made in heaven this probably is not (we’ll ignore my fondness for bed-wetting 90s emo, if that’s alright).

‘Record Store’ opens the record in a blur of hurried drums and fuzzy guitars and suddenly I’m back in my one-time adopted home of Manchester. Not because it sounds like Manchester music, hell no – it’s something else. Specifically I’m at Café Saki in Rusholme for the fortnightly Underachievers Please Try Harder club night, getting annoyed at DJs for not playing Archers of Loaf due to most people there being too young to have read Pitchfork (their bible) in the 90s. I’m looking at girls and thinking they’re kind of hot, but probably more interested in baking cakes than partying, and that conversation would be awkward and boring (and difficult because I’m smashed already). I’m thinking that all this C86 fey indie stuff would be right up my ex-girlfriend’s street, and that I hate my ex-girlfriend. The song, and Gold-Bears in general, would be rapturously lapped up by said one-time significant other, and will be by many others – because it sounds like all that C86 fey indie stuff. The Underachievers crowd would love it, and shuffle along to it with appropriate Caucasian meekness while wondering what to wear to this week’s crochet club get-together. Meanwhile, I’m about to predictably pan it, right?


It’s really very enjoyable. I’m not saying it isn’t sickeningly saccharine, to a similar extent that once made me declare to my mother that I’d contracted diabetes from watching Love, Actually with her. And I’m not saying that when the singer delivers the line “last night after sex I was lying awake in bed with visions of sugarplums dancing around my head” on ‘Xmas Song’ I’m not thinking “you’re a virgin and a liar”. But whereas Pains of Being Pure at Heart tried this schtick but were too one-paced to maintain interest, Gold-Bears have the pop songwriting nailed and ally it to varied tempos and sounds. You have your My Bloody Valentine bits, your Wedding Present bits, and so on, but the best thing is that a lot of the time they’re played in such frenzy that you can’t help but be swept along. Then to throw you for a loop, the band slows things down on tracks like ‘Are You Falling in Love?’ and the Mercury Rev-like ‘Besides You’.

At little over half an hour, the record is a palatable length for something so simple and overwhelmingly pleasant. Towards the end are some of its strongest songs. The verse to ‘Tally’ adds a lovely swell of strings to the by-now standard fizzy rush of guitars and drums, and closer ‘Yeah, Tonight’ – the album’s slow-burning stand-out – is atmospheric and confessional, signing matters off with poise and grace.

Gold-Bears are twee and cute and most of the things that annoy me about a lot of indie rock and its followers, but hell (or heck if you’re a sensitive sort), they’ve served up something fun and summery to enjoy. It’s all daft, child-like and overtly nostalgic and romantic, but that is part of what makes Are You Falling in Love? such a charming record. I guess being a vintage-clad, cake-baking bore can be interesting too. Plus, I’ve discovered this is an excellent record for ironing to, so will no doubt also go down a storm at crochet club.


Post-review note: Fellow 405 scribe Al Horner avoids physical punishment following his recommendation of this record for review, informing me it would be right up my street. Lucky escape, Al.