Help Stamp Out Loneliness ostensibly fall into that same bracket of Music That Can Be Used To Kill Lightning Bolt fans: shimmering, twee indie pop unafraid to embrace winsome emotions and limp-wristed keyboard lines. Despite their slightly irritating name though (it's from a Nancy Sinatra song), the Manchester six-piece have more trump cards than you might imagine. Singer D. Lucille Campbell's moon-faced vocals are full of strident, Nico-esque androgyny, elongated vowels stretched into geographically vague European sounds, while the musical backing often plays wit ha nice bleached out sparseness, a crisp weightlessness giving a clean, sometimes '80s feel. Lyrically too, it's an interesting mix of sweeping glamour and the drab everyday: Campbell can go from contemplating Los Angeles skies to hilariously wrapping her mouth around "Terry's All Gold".

It's in the songwriting arena that music of this nature stands or falls though. An album of lovelorn romanticism needs searing melodies to distinguish itself from all the other musical crywanks out there. Help Stamp Out Loneliness starts strongly: 'Cottonopolis & Promises' is somehow poised and galloping, piano twinkles cushioned in cooing clouds of backing vocals (a feature of the album as a whole). The verses offer head held high non sequiturs ("You've got to tighten up the old purse strings / In the golden age of V.A.T."), choruses rush into middle eights dreamily. 'Angelyne' may begin with weedy "la la la"s but its airy plinking hides another compact, effortless chorus. 'Angelyne' and the following 'Record Shop' both feature some neat Johnny Marr-style guitar, unobtrusively prettying the pop swish, which in the latter's case revolves around a tale of obsessive love and melodic dynamics so sharp you could shave with them.

It's a hit rate that drops off pretty dramatically though. Much of 'Help Stamp Out Loneliness's middle section flounders in tunes that are passable when they should be spectacular. 'Parma Violence' is the band at its substanceless worst, an empty jauntiness constantly threatening to become worthwhile. 'S*W*I*M' gets back onto quality tracks, enjoyably synthetic drums propelling a song that perfectly captures that tug between old friends and new adventures. And then, after the luminous and sweet almost-ballad of 'Tracy Tracy', one final Big Pop monolith. 'Split Infinitives' careers with brilliant momentum towards several great permanently-rising starburst choruses, melodramatic and always squeezing one more triumphant repetition out. It also means the album ends, strangely, with the band chanting the refrain from Arab Strap's 'The First Big Weekend', which is both unexpected and oddly touching in an 'indie solidarity!' kind of way.

Help Stamp Out Loneliness gets its points through its best songs being better than a lot of other bands' careers. It holds great pop in its hands then dilutes it unforgivably. But you know they could spit back with killer hooks at any time.

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