Saturday, March 3, 2012

Elle s'appelle - The Amazing World o' Stuff (2012)

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Nostalgia can be a very dangerous thing. Whether it's keeping you trapped in the "glory days" of something or causes you to careless lash out at something because it challenges the idea that time and idealization have had a hand in making. Since British powerpop trio Elle s'appelle broke up  almost four years ago a not so secret part of me had hoped they would reform or at least put out the album they had been working on before they broke up. As its members went on to form new bands in new places - it seemed unlikely that I would get my wish. And then former bandleader Andy Donovan announced that Elle s'appelle's debut album would be released through his record label Rekordmeister Music this year. Color me intrigued, impressed, and excited.

Yesterday saw the release of Elle s'appelle's The Amazing World o' Stuff which turns out is less of a return to the Elle s'appelle of yesteryear and more of Donovan's own take on the band's sound and songs. He worked for years on creating new songs and updating old ones and enlisting the help of friends before deciding to release the album. Fans of Elle s'appelle might find such a thing a hard pill to swallow and yet, if you can get past the fact that the album isn't the work of Andy, Lucy, and Owen of old, with their unique keyboard, bass, drum fueled hyperactive pop, and just Andy Donovan (and others) you might find something worth listening to.

Even realizing how dangerous nostalgia could be in my enjoyment of the album there was one hurtle I had a tough time crossing. Namely Lucy Blakeley. Who's strong vocals seemed to fit puzzle-piece perfect with Donovan's. The lack of Lucy wasn't the problem however (though it would've been nice to have her) but rather that the female vocalist Donovan found to replace her is rather meek in her delivery. At least when compared to Blakeley. Considering my years and years of obsessive listening to the old demos on Myspace, it's going to take more than a handful listens for me to fully come to terms with Lucy's absence. That little caveat aside, it's rather nice to hear the old songs in a new context or just hear them again at all (since they're no longer available on Myspace). Andy Donovan's new tracks fit alongside the older ones pretty well, portraying the same high energy that made me fall in love with the band when I heard "Reasons Your Reasons Your Reasons Your"  featured on Eardrums Music's Summer-themed compilation. In fact, there's very little slow down in the album - it maintains the pretty much sky-high levels of energy from start to finish (there's a hint of a slowdown in "She Of Little Faith" but blink and you might miss it).

And yet despite the fact that The Amazing World o' Stuff is most likely to more greatly enjoyed by newcomers to Elle s'appelle's music, the album is still quite an enjoyable listen for everyone. Donovan's ability to write similar-sounding tunes is rather impressive and no doubt a testament to his songwriting talents. Nostalgic or not, The Amazing World o' Stuff is a fun album that contains a brand of nonstop powerpop that I wish was more prevalent. It may not be ushering in a newly formed Elle s'appelle into the world but it's a great piece of music to own.

The album is available for streaming and pay-what-you-want download at Rekordmeister's Bandcamp:

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