ere’s destiny spanking my ass for impulse: When I first heard The Research’s “Lonely Hearts Still Beat the Same” earlier this year, I called my broker and liquidated my investments in energy funds, dumped my girlfriend, gave my drugs to my little brother and tossed my goldfish in the gutter. “What more could a young man ask for?” I thought. Of course, after listening to the entirety of Breaking Up—on which “Lonely Hearts” is situated like a huge wet tongue in the middle of polite pecks—I realized the only other thing I needed was a backup plan.
The Leeds band’s debut, a scrappy collection of twee garage-pop, isn’t bad. It is half-bad, though. Which isn’t to say that every song isn’t good—they’re just fine, the emphasis on ambivalence. Russell “The Disaster”—adorable!—who writes, sings lead on most of the songs, and plays all colors of Casio and Farfisa chintz imaginable recruited Georgia on bass and Sarah on drums for their sheer ineptitude (Sarah already knew how to play the guitar). They bought the cheapest equipment available and learned just enough to suggest having no idea how to play at all. Whereas Young Marble Giants picked and used the two or three elements in their arsenal carefully and to cosmic advantages, the self-conscious amateurism and two-dimensional sound of Breaking Up is more akin to a dragging muffler, constant and reparable.
On “C’mon Chameleon,” Russell says “My baby left me / It was self-explanatory / What’s the scientific name for truth serum?” Don’t know what the hell it’s supposed to mean, but I like it. Otherwise, while honesty often is the best policy, it helps when it’s actually interesting. “I love you but I’m scared I’ll fuck it up” is a near-universal, but it’s not very insightful; at least R.E.M. didn’t open the similarly-duh “Everybody Hurts” by repeating the line four times in 35 seconds and then taking an instrumental break. Parade a sick horse long enough to pity it, but get him back to the stables after that.
In a recent interview, Russell commented that “Lonely Hearts” is “bound to be our biggest hit because it's the only song where Georgia sings instead of me.” Right, but for the wrong reasons. Both Russell and Georgia put on archetypal indie-pop shticks: his is cheeky self-deprecation and hers is robotic melancholy. The blank Teutonic charm of “Lonely Hearts” is their best song because it blends the two: “Lonely hearts still beat the same / It’s not romantic, it’s just automatic / I can’t tell the difference.” It’s an ideal indie-pop love lyric: clever, equally cute and sad, and most importantly, makes itself available to identify with while subverting a love-lyric cliché—the idea that the heart is, beyond biological function, poetic. Period. Close-reading over. Still, along with “C’Mon Chameleon,” it’s the track that makes best use of the band’s strengths; The Research don’t seem to take themselves particularly seriously, and as mixed as Breaking Up is, that’s probably a good line for now.