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The other day I had to write a review of some hideous comedy rock group called the Axis of Awesome. They do purportedly comedic songs about things like Game of Thrones and Christmas; things that any right-minded cynic would shy away from like a sensible drinker shies away from Wetherspoons. One thing that can be said for the Axis of Awesome, however appalling they may be, is that they are very obviously attempting to be funny. Whether this can be said of The Pheromoans I am sadly unable to say.
I've listened to this album six times now and rarely have I approached a review with less idea about what I'm going to write. I don't know if it's good, I don't know if I like it, and my opinion swings wildly back and forth with every listen.
I can tell you what it is, at least. It's slightly fey, witty indiepop, played quite slowly for the most part, sung slightly (and intentionally) out of key. The Pheromoans sound a bit like Spare Snare and it's all very DIY. It's not an accident, they are definitely trying to sound like they do. I just can't figure out if they're trying to make me think, laugh or punch the speakers.
Some examples: one track is called 'Duxford Airshow'. A slightly moany voice whimpers "You know where you've got to go: Duxford Airshow", and later on "The fashion world is full of people like you. They have so many talents, but why are they never apparent?" Another is 'Let's Celebrate', where we get "There's a warehouse in my mind, full of crates, shifting / I know that he's inside, quietly plotting a powerful man's weekend." What is a simple music lover to make of that?
You'll find yourself drifting away from the album occasionally, you mind strolling off to the internet, only to catch yourself halfway through a BBC News story about Payment Protection Insurance with "Hang on, did I just hear him say 'Watford had no music scene'?" Clearly the focus of Hearts of Gold is the lyrics and their journey to the stranger reaches of your brain. The music isn't exactly incidental, and does come to the fore on tracks like 'Young Black Eyes', but it's not designed to hold your attention like weird atonal words. Singer Russell Walker's delivery is so dry it's not worth calling him a singer at all, though he does have a quiet little moan to some sort of melody at various points during the album.
Think of someone preparing a meal for you, without telling you what they're making or what ingredients they're using. They then put the completed meal through a blender and turn it to a brown paste. Of course it can only taste of the ingredients they used, every one of which you may well like a great deal. But would you like the brown paste without knowing what it was? That paste is this album.
So as I've written this, that's the seventh time I've listened to Hearts of Gold. This time, I think it's excellent, inspirationally surreal and inoffensively sinister, like a child with its hands behind its back smiling just a little too innocently. Maybe this time it'll stick, or maybe after listen number eight I'll want The Pheromoans harmed again; I simply don't know. I'm intrigued to find out though, so I guess they win. Give me my brown paste.
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