Despite the delicate kittens-and-bubblegum aesthetic that Melbourne three-piece Pearls portray, their debut LP is nine tracks of brooding swagger, dream-like soundscapes and disco-ball melodies. Since signing to Dot Dash/Remote Control late last year, Pretend You’re Mine will be the first release from the band since their 2012 self-titled EP and the three-year wait for their debut album has proven to be well worth it.
Pearls finally release their full length album, and it has certainly been worth the wait. Pretend You’re Mine is an alt-pop triumph that at times is gloomy, but is teeming with energy.
Pretend You’re Mine is a smorgasbord of left-field influences that collide and mash together into this alt- pop gem of an album. Their signature reverb driven boy-girl vocals that were heard on their debut EP are still there, however the production is tighter and less lo-fi; the drums being beefed up and lifted in the mix gives the album a groove that demands attention. There are nods to 1970’s Bowie, Brian Eno and Marc Bolan, the latter giving the album an infectious glam-rock sheen that is seldom being done in modern music, or rather with this much panache.
From the get-go Pretend You’re Mine reveals its 70’s glam influences, coupled with a gritty nightmarish undertone that would make David Lynch wet himself with excitement – or fear. Album opener and lead- single, Big Shot is all thumping percussion, sparse fuzz guitars and circus synthesizers. Despite its relatively minimal instrumentation, each sound is carefully constructed to compliment one another. Ellice Blakeney’s drums thud along with swagger and simplicity (and the odd cowbell), allowing the Ryan Caesar’s guitar and Cassandra Kiely’s synthesizer to weave around one another without fear of getting lost in the mix. The same can be said for the vocals; the repetitive hook “I’ve got no fun, and I’ve got no money” is croaked out by Caesar and echoed by Kiely in a way that boarders on hypnotism.
For a band with roots in dream-pop and shoegaze it may seem odd that the male vocals on Pretend You’re Mine often take precedence over the females, with Ryan Caesar’s baritone giving the album a darker undercurrent. Me & My Girl and Better Off Alone inject the album’s midsection with slinky modulated guitar, reverberated baritone vocals and a sense of gloom that wouldn’t seem out of place on Playmates, the latest album from Jack Ladder & the Dreamlanders.
As the album descends into its back-end it is revitalized with a is glorious re-interpretation of The Standells‘ 60’s psych-garage gem that featured on the trail-blazing Nuggets compilation Antipodean Interpolations of the First Psychedelic Era. Lo-fi twang is forsaken for wall-of-sound shoegaze influences that are instilled with renewed energy by Blakeney’s tireless thumping percussion. Caesar pays his dues to Australian guitar hero Rowland S. Howard, while Cassandra Kiely delivers a vocal performance that would give Patti Smith a run for her money. It’s an absolute blinder of a track.
On Pretend You’re Mine, Pearls seldom forsake intensity for moodiness, and while there are moments that border the gloomier side of dream-pop there is almost always something interesting going on. Pearls obviously have an arsenal of talent and ideas, and a clear vision for their art; a combination that has yielded an album that is alluring and glamorous in the weirdest possible way. Bowie would be proud.
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