Viva Voce 2xCD review by Luc Rodgers

Music Reviews
Viva Voce 2xCD review by Luc Rodgers
Mar 25, 2008, 17:53

Viva Voce - Lovers, Lead the Way! & The Heat Can Melt Your Brain

VIVA VOCE Lovers, Lead the Way / The Heat Can Melt Your Brain 2xCD

After a band makes it “big” reissues are to be expected. Remastering and the inclusion of bonus tracks are always appreciated but, for the most part, afterthoughts. Whether or not Viva Voce has hit it large enough to require a reissue is arguable; the name is tossed around quite often in the circle of psych-electro-folk, but outsiders may find this unneeded and superfluous. While obviously directed towards the new legion of fans (who've been touting them, and rightfully so, since 2006's, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (Barsuk)), this double disc set not only includes some demos and a fun remix (courtesy of the incredible, fellow folkers, Tunng) but offers a good introduction to what the husband-and-wife team of Kevin and Anita Robinson experimented with to get them to where they are today.

Disc one is merely their sophomore effort, Lovers Lead the Way, in its entirety. While the songs themselves present nothing fantastical or particularly moving in and of themselves, it is the production that truly carries it. With the larger-than-life bass drum thumping and quaking the room and sparse electronic soundscapes ever hovering in the background, it is impossible not to mention psych-mastermind Dave Fridmann as an obvious influence. The stunning thing though, is it was all done at home. Ah, the wonders of the computer age…bringing to life truly beautiful and poignant Frankensteins!

As stated before, the songs themselves are good, but only good. Verse into chorus, nestling into your brain until the next one comes and spreads the warm sun over the sheets and maintains the temperature of the cup of coffee on the windowsill. It is only pop, but it is a pop without borders. “Wrecking Ball,” for instance, evokes the spirit of a “What Makes it Go”-era Komeda while the atmospheric “The Tiger and How We Tamed it” nods to a female-fronted Mercury Rev (further solidifying their Fridmann fascination).

Disc two contains the more-realized The Heat Can Melt Your Brain, along with the demos, remix, and live cuts. Demos, as most know, can usually be omitted, as they are usually just filler with no real point as to their existence outside of the songwriter's headphones. The opener, “Alive With Pleasure,” stands out as their most surprising, confident, and overall pleasing song to date. With a fuzzed out guitar line doubling (sometimes) the falsetto of Kevin, a rock anthem is expected after the retard into the first verse. Alas, everything then falls away leaving the spotlight on Anita's silky, damaged vocals singing a lonely tome over half time guitar plucks and bass/drums. Complete with key change and a repetitive, “Give it some time/You'll make it with me/We'll be just fine,” it is impossible for a smile and a comfort not to overtake the listener. As it again goes through the intro, one realizes that it is, in fact, over, which only solidifies its importance as a song. The only thing to do is to listen to it again…and maybe again. (A truly catchy song, no matter the length, should always have that power.) Other standouts include “Business Casual,” with it's Michael Ivins-esque (Flaming Lips…I'm sensing a pattern here) mainstay bass line and the dark, sexy “Free Nude Celebs,” which features, among many other respectable ingredients, very well-placed hand claps. While the other songs remain stronger than anything on their previous record, they do fall short in this collection with such distinct numbers surrounding them.

With Tunng adding its mainstays of samples, various percussions (including, but in no way limited to, rain sticks, shakers, and beeps-as-rhythms) a vast departure is heard and celebrated in “Wrecking Ball,” which, unfortunately is the only tune remixed by the British giants. Completely disassembled and glued together to sound like, well, a Tunng song, a newfound power and creepiness is added to the usual, easily digestible pop of the duo. While being the most interesting and thought-provoking track in the entire collection, it would be unfair to keep gushing…Viva Voce did not make it so. This exaltation should be explained elsewhere—namely, a Tunng review.

Not only does this re-issue give the new fans an overview of the back catalogue, it simply makes the out-of-print back catalog available once again. Spreading their talent over many instruments and styles, Viva Voce should be best remembered for being very adept at recording and production; something this clean and promising should not be overlooked but studied by each and every bedroom singer/songwriter working today. Yes, it is possible to make a record while retaining all decision-making powers without having to record straight to a wet waffle! [Amore!Phonics]

-Luc Rodgers


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