Review: We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves – Make a Mess of Sacred Ground
Published on May 30th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
When we spoke to We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves front man Giovanni Saldarriaga last November, he told us what we could expect from his band’s forthcoming debut long-player in the following terms…
“You can expect a collection of musical postcards cheerleading what we call the lost decade in pop music; a decade that championed swooping vox jaguar organ sounds, sadomasochistically amphetamined guitars, bouncy Motown basslines, the neo-Victorian poetry of the pince-nez, the barbarity of the Foxtrot, the rise and fall of Malkmus X, the secret Hasidicism of day-glo clothing, the gruesome museums of Genet and Bresson. If you want proof of that decade’s existence, c.f. 1948, 1959, 1966, 1972, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1994, 1995. The songs are all high-hearted and point unpoetically, if rather overexplicitly to our past and current fascinations.”
Quite a billing, I’m sure you’ll agree, but Make a Mess of Sacred Ground does a fine job of living up to it. Imagine if you will a cross between The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian and you’d be pretty close to the mark – certainly, you wouldn’t have guessed they were from Brooklyn. Exuberantly trotting single “Winsome William” gets things underway in eminently Morrissey-like fashion, Saldarriaga’s breathless delivery taking in such delightfully skewed singalong fare as “All the hippies and the punks say they fucked it up / The disco dancing and the drugs, they say they fucked it up”, all the while never allowing such wryness to overpower the prevailing sunniness of the melodies themselves.
The ensuing “Stop Moving” could almost double up as a request given how the lyrics fly at you seemingly at 100mph, but the band are such a tight unit that you needn’t know the words in order to get swept up by the canny tempo changes, deliciously jangly guitars and cheerful organ lines. “Never Listen to the Ones You Love” perhaps betrays another influence by mimicking The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry”, the line “she’ll always make us sing all the sad songs” keeping things suitably bittersweet, while “Get on the Situation” and “Heart in a Sling” merit mentions for respectively rhyming ‘robbery’ with ‘snobbery’ and ‘poor kid’ with ‘orchid’.
“Eloise” makes for a nice change of pace, pared-back acoustic strum that it is, before “Bring the Bastards Down” brings the pace back up with ace speed-strumming, energetic drums and all-round thrilling punctuation – all of which leaves “Devil in the Old Folks Home” to ride us out like “Lust For Life” skipping merrily through a corn field, with a nice round of woooo!-ing for good measure.
Given that Make a Mess of Sacred Ground was preceded by a seven-track EP it rather understays its welcome with just the eight here, but there’s plenty of promise on display from a band that sounds not only like they do know how to enjoy themselves, but also how to spread the goodwill around.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!