The Meeting Places
erhaps in an effort to distance themselves from certain unwanted connotations and comparisons, the Meeting Places are now flying the banner of “noise-pop” for their second album. As opposed to ... you know, that one which implies you like staring at your loafers. Footwearcontemplating, or something. This is not an unreasonable semantic switch, as the more indulgent swathes of sound have been largely kept on the leash during this offering. Reminiscent of the more pop-orientated direction taken by comrades-in-sound Asobi Seksu on Citrus, the Los Angeles foursome have attempted to strike some kind of balance between the forces of melody and maelstrom.
And it works. Mostly.
There is no question that the highlights surpass the group’s previous efforts. Bookending the record, “Love Like the Movies” and “Cardboard Robot” provide textbook lessons in lovingly weaving the pop with the fuzz. Easing us in with a slow groove before ramping the levels up and Up and UP and UP in classic style, their enveloping presence provides the winning smile for the face of this subtle rebranding exercise. Swirls deployed with care and attention, enhancing indie-pop structures—this is the new vision made audio. The latter track also benefits from an exceptional title. Which always helps.
Elsewhere, “Mumble” finally goes some way towards justifying the myriad comparisons with The Jesus and Mary Chain, in the sense that it includes a passable impression of what a cautiously optimistic Reid brother vocal line might sound like. Cleverly combining this resemblance with a catchy glockenspiel hook and warmly toned guitar interjections ensure that any accusations of being directly derivative cannot go much further. Though whilst we’re loitering down the side alley of Sound-a-Like Boulevard, it must be noted that “Hall of Fame” could quite easily be a My Mind’s Eye-era Comsat Angels outtake. Hardly something that could be considered unwelcome, of course.
Other decorations catch the ear. Sparing use of female backing harmonies mean their appearances shine through the mix like points of light from a pinhole camera. Piano comes and goes. Enough minor treats to continually tweak the interest.
That parts of the album feel as though they are more memorably defined by minor embellishments than by whole songs is indicative of a wider problem. Whilst the better moments stand out, others often become mired in their efforts to incorporate pedal trickery where it doesn’t quite fit, or force lighter pursuits into areas which may have been best left alone to brood and smolder. In essence; you can sometimes see the joins. This leaves the occasional track sounding slightly clumsy or underdeveloped—something which is especially unfortunate in the company of tunes which achieve the desired union with such aplomb.
It’s far from an album killer. At a shade under thirty-five minutes, the record briskly offers its repertoire in a fashion that means any parts that fail to click (and they are hardly myriad) are swiftly replaced by something that expresses precisely why the Meeting Places have pinned the colors of noise-pop to their lapels. The change of focus is a subtle but encouraging one. Though the progression from the first album is not as pronounced as it might have been, the signs are aligning for a hell of a third record. If that comes to pass, this work could well be viewed as an important stepping-stone. At present it shares the same solid qualities, but the riverbank destination is shrouded in fog.