Under Review: Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls
With few exceptions, upbeat indie pop acts can often get too cheery for their own good. Thanks to bands like Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura, though, dark romanticism has helped give an edge to songs that might otherwise be too sappy. Things work nearly the other way around for London/Glasgow coed quartet Veronica Falls. Since creeping onto the scene a few years ago with a string of gloomy pop singles, Veronica Falls’ ethos has been rooted in mixing chilling guitar figures and macabre lyrical motifs and injecting just enough twisted pleasure to avoid total ennui. While a number of songs on Veronica Falls, the group’s full-length debut, were previously released on various singles and EPs, the complete set (including new songs) expertly blends the fresh with familiar, the pretty and eerie. The album begins with one of the group’s earliest songs, “Found Love In A Graveyard,” whose monotonous intonations from the male members underscore Roxanne Clifford’s necromancing. Songs like “Beachy Head” (which, as any Throbbing Gristle fan will tell you, refers to a popular British suicide cliff) exploit the inherent darkness of well-known cultural reference points, but Veronica Falls also do quite well when they explore the chasms of human interaction.
Veronica Falls’ skills at contrast go much further than simple vocal counterpoints. The ominous refrain of “Bad Feeling,” “I’ve got a bad feeling/and it’s not going away,” is delivered with such exuberance that you might forget just how grim a song it is. When Clifford’s guitar locks into a groove with guitarist James Hoare’s, the result is tense and exciting. The intro to album closer “Come On Over” is gorgeous in its simplicity, and when the song kicks in around the 45 second mark, the group launches into its most captivating composition. With a nod to Tommy James’ “Crimson And Clover” (it does rhyme, after all), “Come On Over” is a chugging, dynamic gem that sounds both retro and timeless. Slightly discordant guitars give the song a woozy imbalance, and the ambiguous yet inviting lyrics perfectly demonstrates the band’s mood-blending skills. By showing how fun it is to be miserable, Veronica Falls have created an essential pop album.