The Big Pink

Future This

(4AD; 2012)

By David M. Goldstein | 28 January 2012

As the archives of this site will attest, I thoroughly enjoyed the Big Pink’s 2009 debut A Brief History of Love. After subjecting myself to the headache inducing dross of Future This, I re-listened to Love just to make sure I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. Nope—it’s still a highly enjoyable tribute to the Brit-Rock Class of 1997, and “Velvet” would have been an international smash had it been released back then. Despite technically only being comprised of Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell, Love found the Big Pink sounding like a functional band with dynamic songs designed for maximum flag-waving festival impact.

But I always feared for the follow-up, mostly because Love came very close to overdosing on loud electronics, and despite their songwriting chops Furze and Cordell always seemed slightly dick-ish, displayed in the sub-Tucker Max antics of hit single “Dominos” and arty softcore of their singles and album art. Plus, not every song on Love was golden, with tracks like “Too Young to Love” and “Frisk” falling prey to the faceless beats/no hooks formula that characterized Ian Brown’s laughable solo career.

So of course that’s the sound that the Big Pink elects to double down on here. Far from sounding like a legitimate band, Furze and Cordell now just sound like two hapless shmucks whose producer tricked them into making a bro-step record. There’s a noticeable over-reliance on samples, dynamics are non-existent, and the listener is being constantly bombarded by electronics to compensate for a lack of hooks. The Big Pink were never what one would think of as a subtle band, but have either of them actually attempted to listen to Future This all the way through? Do they realize that the chorus of “Rubbernecking” is essentially the human equivalent of a dog whistle? British super-producer Paul Epworth has been at this long enough to know better, even if some of his more high profile efforts as of late (Florence + the Machine’s Ceremonials for one) have suffered from being all in the red all the time.

Future This‘s most rewarding tracks are its first two. “Stay Gold” basically stripmines “Dominos” for its ginormous backbeat and widescreen chorus, but shifts the lyrical outlook from swordsmanship to positive uplift, creating a track ideal for the 2012 London Summer Games. “Hit the Ground (Superman)” is a catchy little track with a Laurie Anderson sample that works, even if the lead vocals, like on every song here, are mixed far too loudly. And that’s really as good as it gets here. The majority of Future This is a punishingly noisy, hookless mess that contains precious few of the qualities that endeared folks to the Big Pink to begin with. Less a sophomore slump than a face plant, these guys have some serious ground to make up come album three.