Editor’s note: this review is based on the longer version of Alexander Devotion. Still, the four track EP completely has the feelings described in the following rant.
It’s weird how memory works. I’ve been a fan of Letting Up Despite Great Faults for a good six years and I still can’t put my finger on which 80s band they remind me of. The jangle pop sensibilities, the stylish synths, the grandiose pop shenanigans, they are all there, but I couldn’t write a “if you like ________, you’ll love Letting Up Despite Great Faults!” to save my life.
Maybe it’s for the best. Comparisons are a terrible way to push a band you love to the unsuspecting public. It’s like this ice cream joint I used to frequent in Tampico, back in the 80s. It was called Bing and they had Rocky Road and Espuma de Ángel flavours. Rocky Road, you know that one by heart, right? But Espuma de Ángel –angel foam- how in tarnation can I explain that? It was a unique, fresh flavour, with marshmallows that made it fluffy and sweet, with a hint of sour that managed to offset the sugar rush. I’d love to have two scoops, but that ice cream joint is no more, another victim of time and tide.
You ever had a false memory come back and haunt you? I keep thinking about the 80s, Tampico and ice cream while listening to Alexander Devotion, four tracks in its retail presentation, a nifty nine in the special edition. Neon lights, a humid wind from the beach and late afternoon strolls. The past I lived in a coastal city, flashing back. I actually wasted 3 hours in Google Street View looking for a building that doesn’t exist in Tampico, but I was sure it did. A lone building in a busy street, neon lit, a mere 2 blocks from the ice cream joint.
I know this sounds like rambling, but stick with me. For the 29 minutes or so that Alexander Devotion lasts, I can clearly see that building, with vintage coupé utilities, pick up trucks and the ocassional volkswagen bug meandering around. The dollar – peso exchange rate is still heartwrenching, the Berlin wall is still up and everyone wears pastel t-shirts and Reebook high tops. Can you hear the car with the overpowered sound system? Yes, the purple one, with leather interiors. It’s blasting ‘Starlet’, the Pyramid Mindblower subwoofers threatening to tear the car apart. The momentous high, an emotion intertwined with Letting Up Despite Great Faults’ sound, is there, for us to ride until the end.
The nostalgia aftertaste of shoegaze mixed with the upbeat dreampop arrangements are what make tracks like ‘Devotion’ and ‘Pageantry’ -an album highlight for sure- trips to a past you never experienced, but you swear you cherish until your last breath. ‘Armonica’ and ‘Caroline’ have a certain breezy sweetness that never outstays its welcome. ‘Armonica’ in particular has a sincerity in its emotions that ticks the right marks for perfect pop while still have that little extra spice. ‘Mass’ peers through its wall of sound approach, slowing down the pace before shoving you back into a wall that you don’t actually hit.
‘Whiplash’ rolls back like waves in a moonlit ocean, fading slowly in a cascade of white noise and thoughful guitar licks. It fades away and Alexander Devotion disappears. The building has no neon lights, it’s a concrete beast. The ice cream shop closed. Tampico is crime-ridden hell hole where it’s no longer safe to walk out at night. Time and tide passed and in a world of madness, violence, and downright nastiness, Letting up despite great faults offer a half hour of escapism, a trip to a past you want to believe happened, but it never did.
The music of Altered Images, Cyndi Lauper and Erasure blasts from the speakers in that pink and white ice cream shop. The night is young and you want to remember this moment. You won’t remember because it never happened, but Alexander Devotion offers that alternate reality where time stopped, for a night, in July of 1988, where everything seemed right for the duration of one big ass cup of ice cream. Two scoops, of course.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López