Disenchanted Hearts Unite
ndie-pop, at least outside of its own little world, is not one of the most remarked upon of genres; certainly not in the way that its unhyphenated constituents are. Its critics lambast it as little more than a set of sickly, exclusionary musical signifiers jammed together by middle-class white kids, revelling smugly in false icons of innocence. Unfortunately it is often its advocates who most damningly condemn indie-pop. They argue that it’s a distillation of all that is good and proper in pop, free of all that horrible misogynist rap and electronic dance rubbish that clogs up the charts. Check the godawful sleeve notes to the Rough Trade Indiepop 1 compilation to see these self-hating, real-ale popists put the nails in the critical coffin of twee.
Yet if you clear your mind and rid yourself of those mental images of boys in duffel coats and girls who look like they were drawn by Charles M. Schultz, it becomes clear that the impact of the best indie-pop is as visceral as Bolt Thrower. Indie-pop is the negative image of death metal: scene specific music that wraps you in sound. One chooses violence, one chooses sweetness, and both are vaguely incomprehensible to outsiders. On Disenchanted Hearts Unite, Tullycraft, most famous for ultra scene-specific but irresistibly catchy auto-critiques “Twee” and “Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend Is Too Stupid To Know About,” present an indie-pop so loaded with joyful sounds that it begins to bend. This is not the literary music of myth; these songs—some half-covers, many pilfering harmonies and half-remembered hooks—twist free, becoming blurs, on the verge of shifting into abstract impressions. The words are occasionally clever, occasionally moving, perfect fodder for LiveJournal sub names, but this is as much about inducing maximum serotonin rush as the best filter house.
God knows what would happen if the indie-pop kids got their dainty hands on MDMA— maybe the lysergic excesses of the formerly twee My Bloody Valentine give us a vague idea—but this is beside the point. Even at their most introspective, Tullycraft are nothing less than euphoric. The “Take me anywhere tonight” refrain of “Polaroids from Mars” echoes the sentiments of “There is a Light That Never Goes Out,” but surfing on layer upon layer of viscous harmonies and a melody line that feels as if it has been ripped from beyond the continuum of pop: some classical motif, or maybe it’s “Twisterella” by Ride—nah, it’s probably just a jangly concoction of hackneyed chords. Whatever it is, it works.
Really, we must dispense here with genre terms. They have their uses, but in the pursuit of pleasure, they rarely do more than set us back, put fences around sounds, and close our ears. It could be the case that your pleasure receivers are hard-wired differently, in which case a lot of this could come of as sickly, cloying, and toe-curlingly faux. Even so, consider this from a teleological position: What is it that these people are aiming for? The whimsy is a distraction; you don’t really need to know that they cover indie-pop legends Helen Love and the BMX Bandits or pick up on all the coy references to realise that this is music made simply to put a smile on your face. The other stuff just makes it feel like it was designed to put a smile on the faces of specific people. Disenchanted Hearts Unite is a love letter addressed to a small group of people, but its sentiments are universal enough to be understood by anyone.
Reviewed by: Paul Scott
Reviewed on: 2006-03-01