The Big Pink: Future This
Back in 2009, Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell offered a glimmer of hope to the many thousands of aspiring musicians who feared they had missed out on ever becoming the Next Big Thing.
The London-based duo were previously best known as behind-the-scenes figures in the darker recesses of the dance music industry, with their labels Merok and the tellingly named Hate Channel. Their band, The Big Pink, began in the mid-noughties as an experimental noise project but then underwent an unlikely change of direction, notably via a splendidly catchy electro-pop song called Dominos. It became a huge radio and chart hit and, backed by a cleverly controversial promotional campaign, the duo were voted Best New Act at the usually youth-focused NME Awards. Not bad for a couple of quasi-veterans.
No longer a hot new band, though, The Big Pink are forced to rely purely on their songwriting talents for this second album, two years on from their well-received debut A Brief History of Love. The wise old heads have taken the opposite path to that of a previous zeitgeist-surfing electro-pop act, Klaxons, who were signed to Cordell's Merok label early on, won the prestigious Mercury Prize but alienated much of their new fan base with a long delayed, overly ambitious and subsequently scrapped sequel.
Despite the title, Future This makes no attempt to break new musical ground, relying instead on solid crowd-pleasing tactics gleaned from much live work since that first record. Their eagerness to please is evident from the opening track, Stay Gold, an uplifting synthesizer epic on which Furze issues a recurring rallying call to "stay gold, gold, you shine the light for us to follow", a sentiment you can expect to hear over TV montages of great sporting moments in the near future: this is, after all, an Olympic year.
Stay Gold may well be a calculated piece of lyrical opportunism but its anthemic nature will also be a useful asset during the forthcoming festival season, which is invariably a busy period for The Big Pink. The duo's penchant for dark experimentation has now been almost entirely exorcised in favour of big, breezy choruses, perfect for playing to a large field of potential new fans who need to be won over quickly. Unfortunately most of Future This does not work nearly so well in a more sedate setting.
Early rumours suggested that the band were taking a hip-hop direction with this album, a curious red herring as the overall vibe is risk-free rock-pop, with a wearying lack of variation from the frontman Furze. On The Palace he resembles a slightly out-of-step karaoke singer, while the harmonious female voices that enliven the closing bars of Give it Up are a particular relief after a lead vocal so strained that it verges on pastiche. That track is the record's nadir.
More interesting is Hit the Ground (Superman), a reworking of Laurie Anderson's surprise 1981 hit O Superman; Furze urges the Man of Steel to step in "if I fall off this cloud", but even this less-predictable premise is saddled with drab imagery about "plastic bags, full of cans," and the unavoidable conclusion is that The Big Pink's lyrics are thrown together at the last minute.
Too often an overlong sentence is embarrassingly shoehorned in when a simple edit would have improved things enormously. These lyrical deficiencies need not be a major problem if the musical backing is strong, but it is too often painfully pedestrian. Two later tracks, Jump Music and Lose Your Mind, are at least energetic, but in a climate where concerts are now the only guaranteed money-spinner for many musicians, this deeply forgettable release suggests that the album is becoming an afterthought for some. Future This? Let's hope not.
Published: January 17, 2012 04:00 AM