archive review – originally posted on the losing today site c.2003
And so the fickle finger of fortune passes to Melys or does it? Melys have been arguably the most consistent singles band in the last three years, popularity has never been a problem either, topping the legendary Festive 50 chart on the John Peel radio show in 2001, a succession of sold out appearances, sold out releases yet through all this a band that is surely to live with the fact that they will always be pop’s best known secret.
‘Casting Pearls’ follows 2000’s ‘Kamikaze’ an album that was rarely off the CD decks in this neck of the woods, a torturous twist of darkened, brutalised, vicious undercurrents sweetened by a honey coated allure providing the mother of all venus traps. ‘Casting Pearls’ the bands third album takes a few plays to kick in, you are always expecting that trademark schizophrenic ‘now I’m happy, but now I’m mad’ dynamic that was so explicitly plundered on ‘Kamikaze’ and for that matter on the flurry of singles that followed in it’s wake. Except it doesn’t happen, well not the way you expect it, instead the approach is more subtle and with that more conscious, if anything the whole dynamic is one of reflection within a stripped down medium and with that an impeccable slow burner for the listener to tangle themselves within.
‘Casting pearls’ doesn’t alter the trademark principles that much, the lyrical content still embroils itself in all manner of frailties to do with the human condition: emotions of love / hate, infidelity, revenge and isolation are all explored with Andrea cast centre stage as the adulteress, femme fatale and the abandoned, her elfin like stature housing one of the most ubiquitous vocals around today and one that can evoke in the blink of an eye coy sensuality and frightening intolerance.
As to the songs it’s difficult to know where to begin, perhaps the single ‘So Good’ that preceded the album at the tail end of last year. Maybe in some respects this was a warning shot in itself, so wantonly poppified and strangely summery amid the wintry season it was released in. ‘So good’ is armed to the back teeth with jangly guitars and happy sentiments, to some the prospect of a fully certified fun song ever coming from Melys without any hint of malice or twist in the tail must have been less likely than having Morrisey singing a Christmas song. That said, ‘So good’ is a pristine slice of Darling Buds style power pop, catchy, fluent and funsome.
‘My downer pill’ on the other hand deals a clever lyrical bitter twist, and delves into the misery of a relationship were everything is safe. The protagonist seeking something more from life foolishly believes that it is only she that feels like this, in her selfishness she fails to realise that her partner feels the same and is well on his way to plotting his own escape from misery.
‘Achub fi’ in some way acts as a sweet interlude, initially opening to the sounds of nature, birds calling in the distance the sound of footsteps on gravel all serve to recall Bowie’s ‘The Gravedigger’ before the entrance of the haunting tones of the theremin cast a shroud of icy atmospherics to the plot line. Elsewhere ‘Take me out’ with it’s sprightly harmonies and pulsing twee pop tones, contends with regaining the spark of a staid relationship while ‘Beautiful life’ sees the Melys kids treading waters more associated with St Etienne, starting out in tip toe fashion this feel good sentimental dose of 60’s sprinkled pop soon unfurls to wide screen epic proportions. The albums more up for it moments are provided by the intoxicating ‘Baby Burn’ and ‘Dirty’ both having a femme fatale at their core, the former a prickly Hammond drenched slab of feisty power pop while the latter fizzles and crackles with vengeful respite.
The jewel in the crown surely has to be the elegant ‘Don’t let the sun see me cry’. Probably the most sublime thing the band have ever committed to tape, a tormenting treasure trove of emotive anthemic pop which seems to see Melys excel in every thing they do best, warming melodies, lush overtures that coalesce to create a seismic pull on the heart strings. Simply beautiful.
To put it simply ‘Casting Pearls’ is a flawless joy, an essential must have for any well-ordered record collection.