After carving a niche for themselves in the dreampop/shoegaze mould over the past decade, with 2 critically acclaimed albums and a number of EP's, Pacific UV return with their third full length record, Weekends. It's a record that takes on numerous forms as it runs its 38 minute course, with flourishes of shoegaze in some places and touches of synth driven, dance material in others. Likewise, the vocal stylings are also erratic in their formation, with hints of Mark Everett from Eels, Dave Gahen of Depeche Mode and Oliver Sim of The XX all present. However, not as an amalgamation of the three, rather, imitations of them on separate occasions throughout the album. It's the sort of thing that would grind on you if you treasure continuity in albums, but taken for face value, the vocals work effectively to match the mood of the tracks in which they reside, and that's what really matters most, right?
The opening 5 tracks of Weekends struggle to find a steady line of thought in terms of timbre and emotion, but the high quality of these songs completely override any sour taste left in the mouth from this. (The appallingly named) Just4Kix builds wonderfully as reverb effected guitars shimmer around the headspace of the song whilst a simple tropical sounding synth loop dwells exotically underneath everything. As the texture becomes more cluttered, a purposefully mis-timed voice cuts through the mix, huskily completing the blissed out vibes which bleed perfectly into the following track, Baby Blue. This is a song which sounds strangely familiar, and for all i know, it could be a really good cover of a country song (but being a mentally stable, self-respecting adult, I don't listen to enough Country music to recognise it as such.) However, here, the Country sound is given a thorough shoegaze makeover, with the end product harnessing the same dulcet haze that makes the song, Hellhole Ratrace by Girls so special. If you're a fan of that all encompassing, slowly lumbering, fuzzy guitar sound, this one's especially for you.
But 6 tracks in, something goes horrendously wrong. The song, Ballerina, is without a single doubt in my mind, the album's crushingly terrible low point. An achingly dull backdrop of uninspired percussion and unadventurous guitar drones frame an unpleasantly robotic vocal. And I don't mean robotic as in lacking in emotion, I mean, the guy is actually singing through the sort of cheesy robot voice effect that should have been killed off decades ago.
But please don't give up on the album after this song. I know it's an abomination, but bare with me, because thankfully, after this 4 minute long blip, Weekends picks itself up, wipes off the dirt and soldiers on. For the courageous listener, a real treat lies in wait!
The song, High, triumphantly incorporates orchestral elements to the album. Soaring brass instruments swell and rolling kettle drums create intense, rumbling crescendos as the repeated line "I get high off you" is drawn out in a way that brings to mind the work of space rockers, Spiritualized. If you aren't writhing in sweet ecstasy, you're probably listening to it wrong, because this is perhaps Pacific UV's most encapsulating and glorious moment ever.
The remainder of the album serves to provide some more wonderful highs on top of this. The growling pop of Be my only shallow love and the overwhelming sense of longing conjured up by Going Home are valuable assets to the album, and by the time we reach the closing track there's a feeling that Weekends is home and dry. A very enjoyable album with just one blackspot which we can shove into the back of our heads and mentally suppress - like a traumatic childhood incident.
Sadly, we'd all be mistaken in thinking we're home and dry, as in the closing number , Unplug me, that dreadful childhood tormentor is back. Once again, an awful robot voice brutally molests the entire song, and for me, this repeat offence frustratingly sullies the whole album. The greatest shame of all, however, is that I can't help but feel that without the robotics, this final track would have been a breathtakingly beautiful and subtle conclusion to a decent record.
But what can you do?
Posted: Thu 29 March 2012