Does You Inspire You
New York’s Chairlift scares me with its poise. A band right out of the gate shouldn’t be crafting freak power synth pop this baroque and well-constructed. You most likely know this trio best from a recent iPod ad (“Bruises,” a beautiful song after the commercial snippet ends, with great lyrics about skinned knees and a clockwork funk groove); but I can’t hold that against them, it’s just brute economic reality. When talent is this precocious, it sure as hell ain’t gonna be our little underground secret for too long. Does You Inspire You — Columbia’s reissue of their debut album with an eye towards their forthcoming major label debut — is a glittering swath of carefully constructed synth pop confection cribbing hints from The Cure’s “Lovecats” (that same sort of simultaneously bratty and melancholy vibe, yowling playfully and then ripping your guts out of your chest with the sheer loneliness of it all, they know they’ve got you in their clutches but there’s always time to play), Pet Shop Boys, and Depeche Mode, and vocalist Caroline Polachek’s elegant Kate Bush meets Polly Jean Harvey vocals towering over it all.
Chairlift makes undeniable music; they’re as at-home soundtracking lost reels of some John Hughes period piece as at inspiring all manner of ungainly dancing at some Williamsburg loft party next month. “Planet Health’s” tapestry of synthy glimmers and sighs gives way to Eastern flourishes and then a funky smoldering chorus of “Stop/drop/and roll out the fire” over some non-cheesy slap bass. Whoah. “Earwig Town” adds road-movie shuffle while the vocalists choke on the dust in their throats — until there’s this totally epic synth bridge and Polachek’s just wordlessly singing “oh oh oh oh oh.” Neat trick.
It’s unfortunate that the male backing vocals on “Evident Utensil” end up sounding like the guy on “Barbie Girl” because it tarnishes an otherwise enjoyable slice of Thompson Twins-esque pop. Much better is “Territory,” a long sigh that’s like Kate Bush meets the Cure’s Faith; simmering swaths of chiming, icy keyboards and spare, fuzzed-out bass lines and keening vocals melt into one another. “Le Flying Saucer Hat” proves that even the spaciest of psychedelic conceits can be rendered impossibly cosmopolitan with a French accent, hand-clap percussion, and clipped Italo-disco keyboards. “Ceiling Wax” ends the album handily, furtive and hushed, like a track off This Mortal Coil’s Filigree and Shadow.
Ridiculously assured — the choruses just get bigger and bigger, the hooks become more and more heartwarmed, and Polachek’s vocals get more dramatic and cinematic. Everyone’s headin’ to the dancefloor…