Waiting for Something to Happen... ...and then out of nothing this lady shoves this bloke in a stripy shirt, right...
Review: Veronica Falls – Waiting for Something to Happen
Published on February 20th, 2013 | Theo Gorst
Though the sound Veronica Falls return with on their second LP is fuller, the biggest difference from their debut album and its follow up is the lyrical content. While the songwriting still elicits a classic era of pre-1980s rock music, lyrically the London quartet have turned their attention away from the morbid tales of suicide and graveyard love that characterised their previous record, instead now articulating the very real concerns of entering adulthood.
A reliance on the hackneyed and clichéd could easily have been adopted in expressing such an alteration yet instead the band seamlessly present themselves, and characters, struggling for a compromise between adulthood and being a teenager. Indeed by evoking bands of yore – The Velvet Underground, The Byrds and Big Star – a nostalgia exists within the music that perfectly complements the tales of youth that embody tracks like “Teenage”.
Indeed the record works so well presenting thirteen tracks that sound unmistakably like Veronica Falls, while simultaneously referencing past greats. “Tell Me” builds like Television’s “Marquee Moon”, “Teenage” shares the adolescent sincerity of Big Star’s “Thirteen” and the title track is centered around wistful, countrified, Byrds-esque guitars.
However that’s not to say Waiting for Something to Happen is a product of mere revisionism. Instead the band infuse each track with their distinctive harmonies, be they three-part, or where one vocal line is layered, while at its heart the LP works as a series of juxtapositions both lyrically and sonically. The conflict arising from growing old and having to abandon childhood for the inevitability of adulthood, with the many responsibilities it encompasses, works as a rough narrative that links the songs.
Guitarist and main vocalist Roxanne Clifford alternates between declaring “gone are the days of last year”, to claiming “everybody’s changing, but I remain the same”. Thus lyrically it becomes clear that the band at once recognise that the demands of adulthood are inescapable and pine for a simpler time, like that described in Big Star’s “Thirteen”: where the walking home of ones’ sweetheart stands as the narrator’s overriding thought. The album shows characters who suffer as a result of this transition, with Clifford sympathetically describing a character who – not for a want of trying – has become a “Broken Toy”, a haunting image evoking childhood and the loss of innocence that dies with it.
The band’s harmonies remain terrific: on tracks like “Waiting for Something to Happen”, the carefree vocals perfectly suit the melodic instrumentation, yet beneath this the lyrics detail a character who feels socially remote. Indeed further progress from the band’s magnificent previous record is shown in the slower tracks: “Shooting Star”showcases the band’s strength in sweet harmonies, which often recall past greats such as The Mamas & the Papas, and they wield it alongside an unexpected and menacing guitar line that recalls Sonic Youth.
“By the same token “If You Still Want Me” shares the intensity of first album closer “Come On Over”. However instead of achieving such emotional depth through an increase of distortion, varying layers – comprising of ominous drums, a bass bubbling beneath the surface and swirling layers of longing vocals – mesmerisingly ebb and flow to disconcertingly accompany a tale about values of worth and possession within a hopeless relationship.
Tales of youthful melodrama advocating premature burial (“Buried Alive”) are countered by assertions of having no desire to follow the object of ones desires (“Everybody’s Changing”). Therefore the title can be seen as addressing the conflict that exists, surrounding throwing oneself head over heels into love whilse feeling pressured into making no such commitment. The characters portrayed within the songs are waiting for a resolve between the two but feel too split to find a conclusion. The “Bad Feeling” from their eponymous remains, yet here it’s articulated to devastating and joyous effect: benefits of youth are celebrated, although the futility of trying to hold on to it is expressed.
It appears that a conclusion is what Veronica Falls are waiting for, and with this indecision producing such glorious results it seems foolish for the listener to hope for a resolve.
Rocksucker says: Five Quails out of Five!
Waiting for Something to Happen is out now on Bella Union. For more information, please visit veronicafalls.com