You Can’t Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts
here’s a conundrum facing many music fans today: before listening to the indie rock album of the minute, we encounter a subliminal disclaimer informing us that what we are about to hear is de rigueur. We are not sure of the message’s origin, but it leaves us with a mixed feeling of latent disinterest and profound curiosity (adjectives interchangeable). Inevitably we’ll listen to the record, often in solitude and with the intention of never telling anyone we have done so. This may be several days ahead of its release; it may be years afterward. This is no case of remnant teenage antipathy; it’s the scene of a procedure that is tiresome but unassailable for hearing humans of all ages: our ears are sieves that endure the bad with the good, or should I say, the regurgitative with the remarkably regurgitative.
Well, at least the Diableros cite their fresh-off-shelf references, or else I’d call them out for plagiarism. To promote their thesis, titled You Can’t Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts, the Canadian band recently made a video. They silkscreened a sweet little animation of shooting stars on a cadmium-saturated still of Canadian country bumpkins in love, on bicycles (see Knife, The, “Heartbeats,” 2004). They added a soundtrack of a man by the name of Pete Carmichael explaining to you in song “Why people love one another” (Answer: “It’s so they can hear their hearts beat together”), (see Arcade Fire, The, “Neighborhoods #1-4,” 2004). Further promotion occurred when this dishy band became the big Canadian indie opener for a big Canadian indie opener of days gone by, The Stills, who recently passed their slender sophomore flop through the sieve, to the sound of a kitchen sink draining.
On all nine tracks, the Diableros’ music does in fact bubble away quite happily while Carmichael’s vocals swirl around in ever decreasing circles toward their drowned fate. I wish I meant that metaphorically, but listening to the aptly titled “Through the Foam” is nothing more than a test of the listener’s ability to decipher one iota of lyrical substance. It may take the use of “Vocal Booster,” your most neglected equalizer setting, to find out what the message is. If you ever get there, I’m sure there’s something to be comprehended. Indeed, the lyrics to “Sugar Laced Soul,” quoted in the paragraph above, mean well, but seldom has meaning well gotten anyone anywhere. Except financially.
“Smash the Clock” is pleasant enough, with a distinctly British throbbing guitar intro that gives way to a brief funeral march and roiling race to the finish—of the track, that is, because it’s impossible to know where Carmichael is trying to take us through a hailstorm of guitars and friends, none of which will desist for so much as a 32nd note rest. Third track “Tropical Pets,” placed too early in this tenuous mix to hold sway, promises to strike out on its own, but those jarring synthesizer thirds, eerie and affecting ten years ago, are forgettable now—lost in the thicket of ever more guitar plods in soldierly 4/4 time signatures.
The album’s blithering title was a warning, of course, but it didn’t hurt to throw Hearts on a wall and see if it stuck. It so happens that the Diableros’ finger painting of the next big thing in fact has few fingerprints, the materials splattered upon the surface from afar with consistent but careless energy. The band’s attempt to be revivalists of a laborious sound is no labor of love; it’s a borrowed recipe that’s tried and true, composed and perfected by someone else, executed by newcomers with eager mouths to feed. But those of us with hearts should rather starve, because music is a romance, and the Diableros’ tenderness is born of the science we drooled upon in textbooks.