The Bicycles – [Album]

Friday, 28 November 2008

There are some bands that, as sticky-sweet as they are, have no obvious edge of cynicism or irony anywhere in their music and so, because of that, casting disparaging criticisms in the direction of any sound they make is akin to kicking a puppy – such actions will invariably backfire and place the character of the criticizer into question.  Such is the case with The Bicycles; premier purveyors of extraordinarily innocent pop that gets played the way it does because making music that brings a smile to the face of anyone that hears it (including the band members themselves) is its own best reward as far as they’re concerned.

While the group’s debut, The Good, The Bad And The Cuddly, hooked listeners with its unaffected, nervous and precocious energy as well as their own excitement at watching their little songs take shape for the first time, Oh No, It’s Love goes one better by avoiding novelty (no “buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-Bicycles!” refrains this time) but keeping the innocence and amping up the production values to make the band sound positively huge. From the opening skitter-and-hiccup of “Won’t She Be Surprised,” the four-piece picks up right where The Good, The Bad… left off as they bounce through the song like their Ritalin wore off a few days before the tape rolled but, as the record progresses, it becomes apparent that the band has elected to throw everything – every sound, every genre and every voice – it can think of at the wall and play it whether it sticks or not to mark the difference between albums. There’s no ignoring that the sound is bigger this time around; with an army of horns and strings behind them, The Bicycles inflate their teensy, twee pop to epic proportions (think of it as the fun middle ground between The Beatles and The Wiggles and you’re on the right track) while still retaining their childlike innocence but, make no mistake, to say that the band is playfully inept is just flat-out incorrect. As Oh No… flounces along, The Bicycles inadvertently betray a phenomenal gift for mimicry as they pick up a variety of different sounds – from vintage garage Brit-pop (“One Twist Too Much”) to laidback contempt-folk (“I’ll Wait For You”) to carousing retro-punk a la The B-52s (“Green Light”) to old country that recalls Conway Twitty or Loretta Lynn (“Stop Calling Me Baby”) and synth-pop (“No One Can Touch You Now”) – for a couple of minutes each and then discarding them to move on to the next with such disconcerting ease that one can’t help can’t help but wonder how much they’re bashfully holding back.

Regardless, whether the band is restraining itself or not, it doesn’t take away from the unmitigated fun that listeners will have with Oh No, It’s Love. As the record progresses into the late-playing of the second half, arresting glimpses of musicality enhance songs including “Leave That Woman Alone” (which cross-pollinates the dense and layered Soul arrangements of the Philadelphia International stable with the band’s own aural ice cream toppings), the sweet and wistful Sloan/Beach Boys pop of “It’s A Good Thing” and the more re-affirming sentiment of “Oh Yes, It’s Love.” As was the approach on The Good, The Bad And The Cuddly, the later tracks on Oh No, It’s Love have an incredibly thick candy-coating (thicker than the first half of Oh No…) and, as a direct result, it’s very easy to miss the more heartbroken and rejected realities of songs like “Can I Keep Calling You Baby?,” “It’s A Good Thing” and the hilarious vignette “Prove It” (where listeners are treated to the sound of a girl having her heart dumped on). Those listeners that do scratch the surface and notice the bitter sweetness found there will be remarkably gratified; while everyone loves a good pop song, too much saccharine can leave an awful bellyache and not many people would subject themselves to such a feeling regularly. However, by giving an inch and acknowledging the sour side of romance, The Bicycles give listeners a way out that will keep them from getting sick. Those sweet doses on Oh No, It’s Love will keep listeners coming back for more, but the sour keeps them from taking too much. Sugar-pop with a sense of reservation? The Bicycles might be on to something here, and it won’t even rot your teeth.

The Bicycles homepage

The Bicycles myspace


Fuzzy Logic online

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