Sunday, November 1, 2009
Love 2 - Air (No Ripcord Review)
No Ripcord Review: 7
SCQ Rating: 75%
As a result of my late-appreciation for Air, which had me backtracking from Talkie Walkie into their early groundbreaking efforts, I’ve only had one full-length - Pocket Symphony - to anticipate in advance. As nuanced as that 2007 release moved the French duo into cinematic mood-music terrain, its sedated feel had me kicking myself and wishing I had been actively listening to Air during their more adventurous years. That longing has been rewarded with Love 2; a record that churns out futurist lounge like a jukebox painted in neon lights that read “Eat My Beat”. Seriously, that’s one of the song titles.
There’s no mistaking that Nicolas Godin and J.B. Dunckel have returned from the dreamy Pocket Symphony with their sights set on living it up and… rocking out? ‘Do the Joy’ swaggers in with a guitar-line vaguely reminiscent of Kid Rock - only fuzzed out, less obnoxious, and accompanied by a bunch of lazer-synths and incoherent robots - which adequately reclaims their 90s mix of laid-back cool and 10 000 Hrz To Legend weirdness. Telltale reminders aside, Love 2 has little time to toy with Air’s legacy when the duo are filtering 60s surf-rock into their patented space-rock (so… space-surf?) on ‘Be a Bee’, or wind-milling glam-rock riffs over shimmering piano codas on ‘So Light is Her Footfall’. While the majority of these heavier galactical-jaunts crowd the record’s first half, there’s no denying that Air sound more confident than ever, capturing the lavish sophistication of their 00’s albums without sacrificing the guitar.
The spontaneity of Air in starry-eyed band formation hardly detracts from their role as staunch defenders of glamorous electronic-pop, thankfully. ‘Missing the Light of the Day’ bubbles along driving synth-stabs and computerized vocals while the shuffling triphop beats of ‘You Can Tell it to Everybody’ pace the sappier details of Air’s eternally bleeding heart. Even ‘Sing Sang Sung’, which skips breezily through sticky acoustic strings and feather-light lyrics, maintains the same unifying, iridescent veneer that renders ‘Tropical Disease’ the most desirable, swanky disease one could hope to contract. Not that any of this should be wildly unexpected for fans; besides being awesome, Talkie Walkie found Air resigned to being their innocuous, cheesy selves and this dependability has made them such a viable product. You know what you’re getting into with an Air album and, accordingly, any complaints made thereafter should be greeted with the friendly rebuke: “yeah dude, it’s AIR…”. How Godin and Dunckel masterminded this immunity to fair criticism is almost certainly a stroke of luck, not genius, but Love 2, in all its fey-posh-loveliness, deserves the benefit of most doubts.
What is surprising about Air’s latest is its tourist approach to genre and sound, hopscotching back and forth between exotic jams ('Tropical Disease') and chilled-out complexity ('African Velvet'). Following Pocket Symphony’s cohesive-to-a-fault sullenness, it’s perhaps a knee-jerk response that Love 2 is easily the band’s most eclectic offering. Yet despite some overbearing cosmetic differences, these two albums are joined in their sketch-like compositions, as if Godin and Dunckel’s strategy was to ride an idea until all its sonic possibilities were explored. Playing Hyde to Pocket Symphony’s Jeckyll, Love 2 is not only the latest chapter in Air’s space-rock adventure, it’s a sequel that triumphs its predecessor.
(This review was originally published on No Ripcord... )