Heavy Yet Light
The Big Pink’s Future This is a sea change, an unfortunate development musically but a positive one commercially. Their last album, A Brief History of Love, has an unmistakable and admitted extensiveness to it, a veritable noise and thematic experiment. And it works as an album, even without coherency. What one hears with Future This is a rejection of that inexplicable flavor in favor of more mainstream sounds. With Future This the Big Pink seem to have their future in mind, aiming to reach the more-stadium rock status of acts like Kings of Leon and Foster the People.
Their choice of producer, Paul Epworth, is the most convincing evidence of this. Epworth, coming off producing Adele’s 21, Foster the People’s Torches, and Florence and the Machine’s Ceremonials, knows a thing or two about giving bands a sound that caters to the currents of music. This is not to say that Future This in any way resembles the sounds of those bands—The Big Pink did not abandon their identity entirely—but it does take the edge off. And it just seems less authentic and sharp than A Brief History of Love.
The first song off the album, “Stay Gold,” is a blatant attempt to recapture the excellence of “Dominos.” “Stay Gold,” however, is still quite enjoyable. The rest of the album plays like a combination of The Rapture with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, with maybe the pop sensibilities of The Drums, only much louder. Songs like “Give It Up” has a distinctive psych-folk and electronica sound, yet it is relegated to the bass–a reminder of The Big Pink of old but beneath a friendlier veneer. The middle portion of the album lags a bit, making it tough to keep interest or differentiate the songs. Here, the loudness becomes something of a crutch and serves as an imperfect mask for rather uninspired songwriting. The fifth track, “1313”, is emblematic of The Big Pink’s move toward accessibility, wherein it distorts only for a bit and then returns to harmony, all the while driven by heavy guitars. Though “1313″ most resembles their previous work, the entire album seems to be an effort to harmonize the explosive power of A Brief History of Love, leading ultimately to sluggishness.
‘Selling out’ is a fictitious concept, I think—the idea that one day a band decides to sell its soul to the popular music executive devil is likely oversimplified at best. And it would be wrong to say that compromising their sound when they’re still working to define themselves. That being said, when the final song “77” closes with a violin and piano outro, it leaves something to be desired considering the unyielding, hardnosed noise sensibilities of The Big Pink’s first album. Ultimately, moving towards a more pop and electronic sound from their industrialized shoegaze would not be a problem for The Big Pink if it made their music better. Instead, this album is less engaging and a step back from before. The sophomore album is often tricky, but The Big Pink’s goal here was definitive: to craft themselves toward a popular audience. In doing so, they’ve lost their best qualities.
Future This trades the My Bloody Valentine-like, hazy guitar riffs for radio-friendly electro beats. At times still eruptive, the push towards a pop middle ground means that Future This lacks conviction in itself, and timidity does not well suit The Big Pink.