Monday, February 18, 2013

REVIEW: Veronica Falls - Waiting for Something to Happen

I suppose that no sophomore album comes easily, and I expect that Waiting for Something to Happen by London-based Veronica Falls is no exception.  But this quartet's talent for songcraft and understanding of what they do well allowed them to retain the engaging melodies and delicious harmonies of their debut, while managing a more expansive and immediate set of songs.  The band's debut, Veronica Falls, was one of my top albums of 2011.  But if I could find even a minor flaw with it, I'd suggest that it arguably was somewhat mannered -- as if the band wasn't will to risk a rough edge.  In contrast, Waiting for Something to Happen has some appealing ragged edges and a live performance feel.

Listen to one of my favorites while continuing to read --

For those not familiar with the band, it features intertwined female/male vocals with Roxanne Clifford providing the lead.  The guitars of Jame Hoare (who also provides vocals) and Clifford jangle and duel while Marion Herbain (bass) and Patrick Doyle (drums and vocals) provide a solid foundation.  Perhaps because of the vocals and jangle the band has frequently been describe as a C86 revival act.  I disagree.  To me, the vocals seem more rooted in the sophisticated folk rock stylings of the '60s (e.g. The Mama and The Papas; The Seekers; Laurel Canyon bands) than the naiveté of C86.  And the more distinct interplay of the guitars on this album remind me of The Bats or R.E.M. to a greater extent than, for example, The Popguns or the Shop Assistants.

Here is one of the fine singles previously released --

Thematically, the album reflects the transitions, including from youth to adulthood, as reflected in song titles such as "Teenage", "Waiting for Something to Happen", "If You Still Want Me" (about a lover that is already gone), and "Everybody's Changing".  But my impression is that the band isn't particularly stressed about the changes.  They are observed, felt, and faces are turned forward.  As the band concludes on "Everybody's Changing": 'I won't look back'.  Even on "If You Still Want Me", the singers' final declaration that 'you could be happy / calling me back / if you still had me / you still want me / calling me back / you could be happy' seems to me to be more of a taunt than a request for another chance.

For me, the bottom line on music is determined on the visceral level, rather than on how a critical listener thinks the music compares to other work or projected developmental arcs.  What I want to know is whether I feel it in the gut when the guitars and bass wash over me, and whether I feel it in my head and heart when the vocals hit my ears.  The answer is that this music just plain works, and it works very well.

Veronica Falls are Roxanne Clifford (lead vocals and guitar), James Hoare (guitar and vocals), Marion Herbain (bass) and Patrick Doyle (drums and vocals).  Clifford and Doyle met in art school in Edinburgh and played together in Scottish bands The Royal We and Sexy Kids.  After moving south to London they recruited Hoare and Herbain and formed Veronica Falls.

Waiting for Something to Happen is out now on Slumberland Records in the US and Bella Union in the UK and Europe.

My final observation is that will all these bands forming in art school, and we've noted several just lately, does anyone ever paint or sculpt?  But I'm a music writer, so I can't complain.

Slumberland Records
Slumberland Records on Facebook
Bella Union

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