Love Is All
Nine Times That Same Song
(What's Your Rupture?; 2005)
By Mark Abraham | 9 February 2006
Repetition and talk—is that all love is? Nine Times That Same Song’s “Talk Talk Talk Talk” makes a serious lobby for the idea. The song begins with the band chanting “one more time,” a phrase normally reserved for a song’s climax. Josephine Olausson syncopates the chorus; phonetically, it sounds like “te-talk te-talk talk talk!” Composed backwards and played forward, the track microcosms the album’s loose concept: Love Is All say a lot over the course of their one + nine songs to get nowhere; they collapse genres by mimicking their own patterns, rattling and grooving to an abortive stop at the 30:35 mark. Even if it’s all just nine repetitions of that repetitive opener, it’s delicious.
Love Is All’s myspace lists their influences as “misinterpretations” and their sound as “confusion” while, actually, their component parts stem from post-punk. Olausson’s voice vibrates through the emotionless delivery of X-Ray Spec Poly Styrene, the harsh diction of the Slits’ Ari Up and the spastic agony of the Pop Group’s Mark Stewart. Guitarist Nicholaus Sparding ranges from the off-kilter riffs of Television’s Tom Verlaine to the brutal attacks of the Pop Group’s Gareth Sager. Bassist Johan Lindwall can punk-funk like the Gang of Four’s Dave Allen but often chooses a more restrained approach. Fredrik Eriksson’s saxophone drops freely from post-rock horn accents to the wild abandon of Essential Logic’s Lora Logic. Drummer Markus Görsch channels the Raincoat’s Palmolive, throws in some “Moby Dick” fills, and somehow ends up with percussion tracks that often echo the experimental tricks of This Heat’s Charles Hayward. Of course, no one wants a myspace to get that referential.
So, this is another punk-revival group, but Love Is All succeed because they meld such disparate influences and sounds to a purpose. The hipper-than-thou cover gave me pause, but the band thankfully avoids the superficial adoption of punk aesthetic that mars so many other bands’ mining of the genre for inspiration. Groups for whom this aesthetic is raison d’être often have little to say themselves; the attitude of “punk” becomes a series of affectations, diluted for self-promotion and other purposes it should be at odds with. Love Is All’s approach is far more complex. Exploiting the compact rhythms, repetition, and sling-shot arrangements of post-punk, the band’s music physically emulates and responds to Olausson’s lyrics about the often painful, generally monotonous, and sometimes schizophrenic experience of being in love.
“Busy Doing Nothing” multi-tracks Eriksson’s horns to a chorus that wails along with Olausson as she outlines the skittish monotony of mind games between exes. Wracked with Pop Group phantasms, the song’s elastic gets stretched to its break point before rebounding in horns and harmonies. “Make Out Fall Out Make Up” fakes a hollow two-note Casio riff before exploding in frustration when Olausson sings its cyclical title. Multi-tracked harmonies crowd the song’s coda and force the frustration to give way so that, with shouts and cadences, “make out, fall out, make up” becomes a celebration. “Felt Tip”—Olausson’s prettiest melody—wraps soothingly around Lindwall’s elaborate bass line before its bridge dissolves to clanging industrial noises. Though its rhymes (“Felt tip had kids / Click your fingertips”) invert clichés that demand “love” be followed by “above,” each verse ends with the clause “step right on the beat.” The effect ties the lyrical non-sequiturs intrinsically to the momentum of the song; “love is nonsense,” its drunk horns, slurpy synths, and stuttering drums hiccup.
Elsewhere, the band is more succinct. Under taut bass and Olausson’s musings on sadistic skin care, “Ageing Has Never Been His Friend” has Görsch alternating between clicking rim shots and explosive drum fills. The sparse funk of “Used Goods” examines the things its narrator has in common with her stalker. “Turn The Radio Off” and “Turn The TV Off” show love motivating wildly different actions. In the former, backed by plaintive saxophone, Olausson gives up the world to hibernate. The latter’s heavily reverbed guitars spiral around a sultry drum beat as Olausson emerges from her hole: “Gotta get myself together / There has to be something better than….” Like the “one more time” that opens the album, the referent remains unclear until, at the end, she finally includes a “this.”
Fittingly, the band isn’t interested in such closure. The tenth song, “Trying Too Hard,” ties a stolen Misfits’ melody to a straightforward rock track. An upbeat closer to an album that advises you to stay in bed, turn things off (or be turned off), and admit you’ve had enough, the song makes clear the tongue-in-cheek nature of the whole affair. Intelligent and self-aware, Love Is All’s love songs are completely devoid of romance. Surprising, then, how easy they are to love.