Grouplove - Big Mess (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
WITH Grouplove, you kind of know what you’re going to get. A euphoric indie-pop meets alt-rock kind of sound that will almost definitely be heard in surf shops and bars along West Coast California or in Newquay, Cornwall.
And while that may be pigeon-holing them to some extent, it’s also indicative of something positive. There’s a free-spiritedness to them in the way that they consistently sound breezy while tackling some big themes.
Big Mess, the third LP from the LA-based outfit, could just be their best body of work yet. It’s chock full of vibrant anthems. And when it gets things absolutely right, it’s spellbinding.
Lead single Welcome To Your Life was a spectacular case in point. Opening with a bouncy, almost hip-hop beat and insistent synth hook, this opens with Hannah Hopper declaring “we’re back in business, you’re such a big mess and I love you” before then proceeding to drop one of the choruses of the year – a guitar-fuelled festival of positivity that instantly makes you feel great about yourself.
It’s a big chorus from a band declaring that they really do mean business, with Christian Zucconi’s trademark falsetto delivery in pristine condition.
And so things continue, the infectious energy taking you on a journey that’s perfectly suited to surf culture, counter-culture and enjoying the natural things in life (sunshine, big waves, open highways, etc).
Indeed, they almost say it themselves, on a similarly enthusiastic and vibrant track like Standing In The Sun, another highlight, and a track that rips out one of the best guitar solos on the LP.
Hopper takes the lead vocals on another favourite, the bouncy Good Morning, her sweet vocal style perfectly complimenting an almost Caribbean sound. Certainly, it’s a summer anthem to be enlivened by.
And yet Grouplove demonstrate there’s more to their make-up than mere feel-good anthems. Another former single, Enlighten Me exists in a more bittersweet place. Built around an emphatic back-beat and some sombre piano arrangements, this is more introspective and questioning.
And yet the keen sense of melody that’s implicit in everything GroupLove do is retained, especially during the epic chorus. Lyrically, there’s an overwhelming sense of loss in lines like “I was holding onto something just knowing you would let me go” and “I don’t feel my life is real” – but the vocals retain an element of the upbeat in them, while that bolder chorus offsets the more slow-building verses. It’s great.
Spinning is similarly more restrained, the sweet melodic style intact yet accompanied by lyrics that talk of being broken and uncertainty. The boy-girl exchange works a treat, as do the “who-ooh-ooh” harmonies. They can slow down the tempo to just as compelling effect.
And yet they can also go nuts, too, as a track like the livewire Cannonball suggests – an ode to an endless summer that smacks of pent-up energy and edginess. Admittedly, it’s exuberance may be a little too much for some taste, as it’s the sound of Grouplove at their most rugged and ramshackle. But just try playing it loud and screaming along to the chorus without caring what other people think.
Traumatized, meanwhile, drops a sound that goes for Pixies meets Smashing Pumpkins with a little Weezer and The Subways thrown in. And if you like the idea of that, then you’re certain to have a blast.
Elsewhere, another favourite is Don’t Stop Making It Happen, which combines edgy verses with another euphoric chorus devoted to the pursuit of never giving up on your dreams. It’s big, it’s brash, it’s everything we’ve come to love about Grouplove and their sound.
As summer turns to autumn in the UK, this is the kind of album that will ensure your days retain a sunshine glow. It’s a feel-good LP of top, top quality.
Download picks: Welcome To Your Life, Standing In The Sun, Enlighten Me, Spinning, Good Morning, Don’t Stop Making It Happen
Watch the video for Welcome To Your Life
Listen to Enlighten Me
Listen to Traumatized