Third time’s the charm, fourth time is… well, I dunno. That’s my stumbling way of introducing Russian Doll, the fourth work I’ve reviewed from Violet Indiana following their debut album, the European-only EP Special and the Casino LP.
There’s going to be something of a “be careful what you wish for” quality to this review. In the past, I’ve occasionally wished idly that Violet Indiana would vary their sound a little; perhaps supply a little more hop with their trip. This release actually seems to answer that, but either they haven’t quite found their inner Kylies yet, or it wasn’t as good an idea as I thought it was. They’ve gained immediacy but sacrificed atmosphere. And that sometimes-stormy atmosphere was really something.
Violet Indiana is Robin Guthrie, late of The Cocteau Twins, and Siobhan De Mare, formerly of Mono. My standard description of their music is “not to groove to but to brood to,” and this density of material is part of their appeal. Unfortunately, for the first time, here they seem to have lost a good deal of their power to charm.
Those who warmed to Violet Indiana’s brand of dream pop years ago will still find much to like on this latest trip to their musical town. But for the just-awakened tourist, I cannot say it’s best value for money — I’d suggest a return to the Casino for the big payoff.
“New Girl” is the best thing here, a gently rocking (like on waves) piece of music from Guthrie accompanied by a loving lyric and romantic vocal by Siobhan with the charming refrain, “I’m his bluebell…I’m his new girl.” Here Violet Indiana lights up like a Goth girl when she smiles. Elsewhere, they still have that alternative rock thing going on, and exude a dreamy command of form that is more than satisfactory. Still, there are far fewer wonderful gems to be heard here than on any of their previous full LPs. Of the other noteworthy tracks, “Beyond The Furr” is very nice, as is the satiny “You,” but too many of the songs seem to lack resolution.
This is a good effort by those who can and have done better.
Bella Union: bellaunion.com