Brothers Alex and Thomas White contributed to one of Rocksucker’s favourite albums of last year as part of The Pure Conjecture, and now they’re back with IDIOTS, their first album as The Electric Soft Parade since 2007′s No Need to Be Downhearted. They’ve burrowed even further into our favour now, because IDIOTS is an absolute bolt from the blue.
Some used to mock The Electric Soft Parade for declaring themselves to have been influenced by The Boo Radleys, but these people knew not what they were on about; The Boo Radleys were a truly great band and ESP have made a bold play for similarly exalted status with this psych-tinged pop odyssey. Opener “The Sun Never Sets Around Here” starts off sounding a lot like Fountains of Wayne’s “Mexican Wine”, a diminished chord bumping the verse into a sophisticated position, but what ensues is more akin to Clouds Taste Metallic-era Flaming Lips with extra added vocal harmonies, not to mention the line “I always felt so queer”.
“Summertime in My Heart” is aptly titled; it sparkles, throwing in a middle eight that unexpectedly takes flight as a tangential psych-pop epic worthy of The Boos themselves, with a dash of Alfie’s great lost 2002 album Do You Imagine Things? for good measure. It’s stunningly effective, almost saying, “We could do this all the way through if we wanted to,” but, whether set to ‘craft’ or ‘adventure’, IDIOTS is a procession of musical sweet spots from start to finish.
Lovely and measured, caked in harmonies and all shot through with fuzzy psychedelia like Phantom Power-era Super Furry Animals: that’s “Summertime in My Heart”, and this is followed by the divinely laid-back, Pulpy/Malkmussy “Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone”, capped by a drop dead gorgeous harmony bolting upwards at the end. “The Corner of Highdown and Montefiore” perhaps borrows too much from George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity”, and arguably needn’t be seven minutes long, but its string section and bursting-into-flames lead guitar adds up to majesty nonetheless.
“Idiots” (lower case) is phenomenal stuff; heavenly, Teenage Fanclubby jangle pop that wanders first into a synthy pre-chorus and then into a laterally conceived, SFA/Blur-esque stomp of a chorus. At this juncture, Rocksucker senses confirmation of our suspicion that The Electric Soft Parade are taking on familiar forms so well and with such innate creativity that they are entirely exonerated for their relative disinclination for originality. All of which is a long-winded way of saying “it doesn’t have to sound new when it sounds as good as this”.
Those reference points may keep on coming but they are uniformly stellar: “Mr Mitchell” is like some resplendent melting pot of ELO, The Supernaturals and Sunflower-era Beach Boys, while “Welcome to the Weirdness” brings to mind some kind of twisted Bacharach, its luxurious verse cascading with consummate romance, before seguing magnificently into a Pulp-like spoken word section. All in all, it’s like a romantic stroll that takes a wrong turn into a dark alley.
“Never Again” brings proceedings to a close with a piano ballad about trying to get to shows on time while on tour, despite being in a state of wretched hang over. That’ll do us. As with HAL last year, it’s so unfashionable that you fear it will fall by the wayside, but even in that undesired eventuality it will still be one of 2013′s most exceptional albums.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
IDIOTS will be released on 17th June by Helium Records.
For more information, please visit The Electric Soft Parade’s official website.