27 November 2006

Fifty


Great Lake SwimmersBodies And Minds (Fargo)

Second album from what has to be the saddest band in the world. And I mean that as a compliment – there can be few bands roaming this earth as in touch with their ennui. Their 2003 self-titled debut came off like the depressive brother of My Morning Jacket (before they decided to play 70s rock), and this does little to buck the trend.

But don’t be thinking that Great Lake Swimmers are just another miserablist shoe-gazer band, for us all to ignore. In their songs is a very particular, cathartic and almost life-affirming melancholy. As the natural duality of life would have it, how would we know happiness if not for sadness?

And Great Lake Swimmers make us aware of this very well. There is a tenderness which just about avoids the bland pit known to the anodyne Keane/Coldplay family. Nor do they come across arguably maliciously depressing, like Mark Lanegan or Joy Division were known to. These songs are touching, and slightly more at peace than those on the debut.

Herein lies the rub: this is the major difference in form. That would not be so bad if it developed the band’s aesthetic, but there is a slight reduction in quality, if anything. Yeah, echoes of the CocoRosie. Without anything quite as sad as the debut’s ‘Moving Pictures Silent Films’, we never plumb the depths – but surely that was the inherent greatness.

We need that knowledge of real musical sadness to aid us in appreciating the natural dynamic of life, whereas this collection of songs offers us neither the highs nor the lows.

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