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The Concretes - Hey Trouble

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Artist: The Concretes

Album: Hey Trouble

Label: Licking Fingers

Review date: Aug. 29, 2007

Imagine having your voice stolen: or having it disappear, mid-career, mid-performance, as though the ridiculousness of the entire situation you’ve suddenly realized you’re a party to has just hit you, head-on, and your only response is a silenced gasp. Who really knows why Victoria Bergsman left The Concretes. Her line about not enjoying the music industry rings a little hollow, and her new album as Taken By Trees hints that, perhaps, she just wanted to take hold of the reins. YouTube it quick enough and you can see her final performance with The Concretes, on the Jonathan Ross Show, comping her way through “On The Radio.” It feels elegiac now; for some reason, watching it over again, I keep flickering back to Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, where the actress protagonist, after losing her gift midway through a play, progressively absents her own existence.

I don’t want to harp on too much about the Bergsman split, except to say that The Concretes didn’t take too long to pick up the pieces. (I guess that’s easy enough to do when you’re a seven-strong mini-army.) Lisa Milberg has taken over as lead vocalist, with a voice that’s slightly less bed-worn and more faltering, which in part balances out the straightening of rough edges Hey Trouble undertakes. Their music is still autumnal in places, and songs like “Little Miss Soldier” are sad and churchy, but the anarchic spook of their self-titled second album is gone, replaced with a simulacrum of ghostliness: the reverb that washes through Hey Trouble signifies comfort more than eeriness.

If the changes wrought in The Concretes camp serve any purpose, it’s to remind us not to take the group’s pop possibilities for granted. They sometimes squander their skills – “Are You Prepared” is girl-pop by numbers, amicable but slightly bloodless; for some reason it makes me think of UK Squeeze, which doesn’t exactly warm the cockles of my heart – but they’re still mining that perfect dream-pop, VU/Modern Lovers/Mazzy Star/etc seam, moving their now-14 limbs like a surrealist big band. Perhaps, with Bergsman’s wintry temperance out of the way, The Concretes are genuflecting toward the light.

By Jon Dale

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