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The Concretes - In Colour

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Artist: The Concretes

Album: In Colour

Label: Astralwerks

Review date: May. 29, 2006

The Concretes have always been an eerie proposition. While there are obvious reference points for their music - third album Velvet Underground, The Pastels, Mazzy Star - the Swedish eight-piece never quite fit; their songs are mysterious even at their most pop, full of breaths of frosty air, shadowed by ghost apparitions hazing the viewfinder. Their self-titled first album from 2004 was prematurely aged, as if the master tapes were found in Maureen Tucker’s closet, coated in 1968 dust from Hollywood’s TTG Studios. That makes The Concretes sound like archivists, but instead of thinking of the group as retro plunderers, try this: The Concretes, like surprisingly few groups these days, use music to will the specters of pop’s past back into half-light.

The spectral reference is important, as there is something uncanny or ‘not quite right’ about The Concretes: their music is both familiar (by virtue of influence) yet strange (by virtue of character). In Colour may not be quite as veiled and nebulous as its predecessor was, but there are still ghosts in here. The close harmonies of “As Four” warp and wax like a procession of small girls in white frocks, candelabra in their collective hands, clambering up a dimly lit staircase; the woozy group motion achieved on “Fiction” and “A Way of Life” wills a spirit chorus from the air. “On the Radio” and “Song for the Songs” turn inward, documenting the seemingly inexplicable mystery of musical revelation. Mike Mogis’ production maintains precarious balance, setting The Concretes in greater clarity while preserving the preciousness of their glorious pop.

The real achievement of In Colour lies in this double bind. The record paints The Concretes’ personality in richer detail without giving up one iota of their distinctive spookiness. (This makes In Colour’s relatively shaky reception in the press all the more inexplicable: after a while, I suspected other writers had been listening to an entirely different group all this time.) As Victoria Bergsman sings in “On the Radio”, sounding absent-minded yet perceptive, as though she has tripped over the key that unlocks the magic of her own music: “Some things are meant to stay unrevealed.”

By Jon Dale

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