When New York band The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s self-titled full length dropped back in 2009, nearly every review of the LP confronted the fact that the group weren’t exploring any new sonic territory. The Pains embraced a very specific sound – indie-pop, especially the distortion-loving type all over the place in the 1980’s – and those writing about it had to either make peace with this fact or hammer the group for being too reverent. This critical situation presented an interesting question about approaching music that’s practically Silly Putty-ed a style – how do we approach new music so obsessed with the past?
Listening to Osaka band Wallflower’s debut Full Of Flowers pushes one into the same scenario, except slightly more extreme. Wallflower aren’t just taking cues from the same twee-loving bands The Pains did on their debut…Wallflower also have studied up on The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (a band they’ve opened for in Japan, by the way), like putting Silly Putty into the copy machine. And so, with Wallflower, it all comes back to that question raised above – when does idol worship become a detriment to one’s art?
The answer is probably different for everybody, but personally I think indie-pop has long been a style of music full of imitation, of hearing a jangly guitar group and thinking “hey, I want to do this!” Thus, Full Of Flowers follows in that tradition, a brief collection of songs enamored with a fuzzed-out indie-pop sound. This isn’t an ambitious album, but a pretty one delivering some of the best indie-pop in Japan thus far in 2012.
Album highlight “Cure For Your Heart” remains the best summation of Wallflower’s sound – skippy guitar rock that contains hints of daydreaming, except always forced forward. The vocals are oftentimes unintelligible, coated in just enough gauze to be out of reach. And concealing some hip-worthy drums and bass. It sounds a lot like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – which means it sounds like a lot of other bands as well – but also comes off as incredibly catchy and starry eyed, perfect early summer indie-pop.
Opener “Dreamy Days” comes off as a bit of a “Cure For Your Heart” wannabe, but every other song here adds slight variations to Wallflower’s approach to keep the EP consistently fresh. “Stargirl” leans more toward the dreamy, the band allowing guitar notes to float around longer than usual and lend the track an out-of-time feel. “Adore, Adore,” on the other hand, shows off the group’s jangle. The song is at its best when it allows the guitars, usually drenched in sun, to get a little pricklier, like after the first chorus. Even “Friendly Yours,” the slow number that cuts out the group’s strongest asset (the pace), manages to be a charming sad-sack slow dance.
Full Of Flowers will most likely not surprise you – do you like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart? The Field Mice? Jesus And Mary Chain? The Pastels? You will probably like this album, because Wallflower likes all of those groups as well an honors them through song. There are far more innovative albums out in 2012 – and probably yet to come this year – but there are few debuts as purely enjoyable as this one.
Get it on iTunes!