The Manhattan Love Suicides are a band who's movements I follow very closely these days.
Having become aware of them over a year ago, I've quickly become a fan of everything they've done, past, present (and most likely) future.
Earlier in the year, they released a brilliant compiliation of their best work to date, the much hearalded "Burnt Out Landscapes".
You can read a detailed review of that album here:
In the latter half of 2008, they also released 4 new songs, on two separate 7" Double A Side singles.
Here then, my review of those songs:
VERONICA b/w THE 10th VICTIM is a Double A Side 7" Single
released on Squirrel Records in early Autumn of 2008.
The first time I heard "Veronica" was after watching a recorded performance of the band playing at a Rough Trade live instore performance from this past August. Sharp DJ Rocker Rosehips (who does a radio show for Dandelion Radio at http://www.dandelionradio.com/) had the good sense to not only capture the show, but to post it up on the internet for those of us who couln't be there, to see. I instantly was hooked on the driving, poppy rhythm. I wasn't sure what Caroline was singing in the chorus, however. At first I thought it was "Oh, oh, America". Then I heard Rockers video capture of the same song from their Indie Tracks show recorded a month earlier and thought maybe she was singing "Uh, oh Erotica". I liked it either way - because like most great music (for me) - its more about how it sounds, than the actual words.
Last month my special edition vinyl copy of the song showed up in the mail. Having already been informed of the songs correct title (and the word Caroline was singing) I eagerly flipped it on my newly acquired turntable.
Naturally, the studio recorded version is brighter, crisper and with all the detailed instrument separation you'd expect to hear. Overall it's a much cheerier song than many of this bands more darker and dissonant pieces.
From the opening note, guitars fill the sonic space with buzzing chords, while a poppy melody line is driven over top. Add to that a counterpoint bassline that is positioned prominently in the mix, and I'm reminded of the sonic textures that The Cure have been sometimes known for. There is a real, solid drumming bottom to this track as well, with emphasis on the driving floor tom, and tambourine-on-snare shot.
Darren adds guitar-hook melody lines over top - in a sonic texture not unlike the aforementioned Cure, or perhaps that sound Depeche Mode got on their song "Personal Jesus".
Caroline's voice is bright and clear on the verses. Presenting the story in classic pop song sensibility.
The stick-in-your-head-to-sing-over-and-over hook is, or course, the Chorus which simply goes "Oh, Oh, Veronica" Combine this catchy word combination with the twangy lick Darren is playing and you'll be sure to be humming this one long after the song is over. The bass is quite prominent in the mix, and that's a good thing as it provides that driving Simon Gallup counter-rhythm that is such an integral part of *that* band's sound. Of note as well is the emergence of true cymbals on the chorus too. A noteworthy sound addition as frequently, the overall MLS sound can be quite minimal, percussion-wise.
Since I was fortunate to get the songs lyrics directly from it's writer (Darren) I include them here for maximum effect:
She don't need no friends and that's ok
Says she's gonna take a plane and live out in the USA
And nothing's keeping her inside this place
'Cos she exists outside of time and space
Try to shut her in and that won't happen
Try to hold her back she's on the run
Oh oh Veronica
Living in a world of feedback and white heat
She gets what she wants out on the street
The world keeps turning round but that's alright
Looking for kicks in the heart of a Saturday night
Hit the brakes before you've even started
Everything you do is a waste of time
Oh oh Veronica
"The 10th Victim" is the antithesis of "Veronica". A dark, driving, ominous, dirge-like song. The bass guitar marks out the progression in bold, simple strokes. Darren matches this rhythm with single-notes on the guitar, in addition to his familiar chord work.
Caroline's vocals are right out of the Nico-with-Velvet Underground school. Her voice is eerily doubled for a slightly off-kilter, impending-doom style. Yet, at the same time, there is a seductive smoothness to her delivery.
The Drums are Mo Tucker simplicity, with that big tambourine strike on every fourth beat.
Darren's guitar soloing hearkens back to that same mid-1960's VU sound. I'm also reminded of another band with a similar soling style at the time -The Byrds and their song "8 Miles High". That band (which featured guitarists Roger McGuinn and David Crosby), no doubt, heard what the Velvet's were doing and incorporated this soloing style into their own. It's a tension filled, near-psychedelic style. Other guitar bands of that same era that employed this guitar style was The Buffalo Springfield. That band just happened to have a very youthful Neil Young and Stephen Stills on guitar.
The Title comes from a typically Manhattan Love Suicides style movie - a 1965 Sci-Fi Action Thriller about a 21st century society where people have a licence to kill. Marcello Mastorianni plays the most successful killer and then his number comes up as a victim. Marcello must always be on guard. The hunter after him is the beautiful Ursula Andress, always dressed in knock-out fashions. Marcello's as cool as ever, always dressed in black, wearing sunglasses.
Shortly thereafter, the band released another Double A Side 7" Single
KESSLER SYNDROME b/w DON'T LEAVE ME DYING,
also on Squirrel Records (Released NOV 2008).
"Kessler Syndrome" comes right out of the box in full-on pop-hook-riff mode. Quick and anthemic, the riff is bouyant (dare I say, sounding "happy"?) - yet the guitars tone and timbre are (once again) harsh and metallic, and the bass is dominant in its rubbery lines (with those long sliding notes that Douglas Hart and Kim Gordon like to play), contributing to the overall rhythm.
Caroline's vocals start, and its that familiar cominbation of part-punky/part-sugary style delivery (I love the way she says words like "away" and "stay") for the opening 8 bar verse. This then leads into an equally hooky bridge - one that conjures up spirits (and the bridges) contained in songs like The Bobby Fuller Four's classic "I Fought The Law (and the law won), and others similiar of that era.
But what is the song actually about? Well, in the world of science and space exploration, "The Kessler Syndrome" is a scenario, proposed by NASA consultant Donald J. Kessler, in which the volume of space debris in Low Earth Orbit is so high that objects in orbit are frequently struck by debris, creating even more debris and a greater risk of further impacts. The implication of this scenario is that the escalating amount of debris in orbit could eventually render space exploration, and even the use of satellites, too prone to loss to be feasible for many generations.
What might this actully have to do with *this song*? Only the author knows that. I've been informed that these lyrics came from the mind of bassist Adam. That he tends to write stuff that's a little deeper than the trashy lyrics about guys driving too fast and girls having affairs with their teachers that Darren and Caroline come up with.
"You say we should try and stay and fight for what we're worth , but that would only add to all the debris that is orbiting the earth" are some actual lyrics.
I'm inclined to believe that perhaps these lyrics are in fact a metaphor for, perhaps a personal relationship that is too cluttered with "debris" (of the human, emotional kind) as to render any further growth to remain "feasible".
Actually the real question should be, why the heck am I intellectualizing a [ ] minute pop song?
Back to the opening riff for another 4 bars. Then verse two. Carolines sings about being "pushed away" and that there is "nothing more to say". "I know I can't stay here anymore"
Then another - different change here - leading up to a half-step up in the key for the final verse.
In the end it doesn't really matter what its about. I can (and want) to dance to it.
"Don't Leave Me Dying" rises from distant feedback, suddenly to a driving, Spector-sonic wall-of-guitars and bass (throttled down in an aggressive manner) as a hooky riff twangs out over top, adding a distinct melody to it all. Vocalist Caroline begins the lyrics in that familar soft-as-snow voice - almost like Bowie does in his classic track "Heroes". However, the pulse and aggression in the music behind it is "Heroes" ampted up on amphetamines - whipping around on a rollercoaster that's just this-close to teetering out of control. Caroline alternates "Crying" with "Dying" at times ("don't leave me crying"). This song is bits of 60's girl-group vocals, bright, chiming 60's-style guitar, driving throttling bass, very poppy and hooky - but way too bathed in overdriven guitars to be ever confused with anything "sweet". In fact, its unapologetically abrasive in its straight-ahead driving nature.
At this point, it should be pretty obvious how highly I regard this band.
If you like fuzzy guitars, sweet/sultry female vocals, dominant basslines and songs that encompass a 1960's sensibility coupled with a cinematic menace, then you owe it to yourself to check out The Manhattan Love Suicides.
Find them at these links:
To order the records directly: