I feel like a hypocrite for enjoying Hooray for Earth’s second album True Loves when I criticized Vivian Girls for the same tactics — essentially taking some past style of music and eating the flesh off its corpse. There’s no getting around it — Hooray for Earth is derivative. First, there’s the ’60s reverb-heavy production that’s at the source of a lot of contemporary music, and in the wake of more dynamic songwriters like Panda Bear and Grizzly Bear, there’s really nothing particularly novel or compelling about it. And then there are the keyboard sounds, which remind me of growing up in the ’80s. (Maybe it’s just the nostalgia — if I had grown up two decades earlier, Vivian Girls may have struck the same chord.)
There’s probably still room for a novel mash-up involving these two trends, but aside from True Loves’ title track, Hooray for Earth doesn’t quite nail it. Some songs lean heavily in one direction, some the other (“Same” is almost straight out of Tears for Fears or something like that). “True Loves” finds a nice balance, and if Noel Heroux and Co. ever figure out how to walk that line for more than a few minutes, Hooray for Earth could be quite good. As it stands, I enjoy it for what it is.
A younger audience with a shorter memory might find True Loves a bit more intriguing. It’s a function of age – I’m sure if I was a thirtysomething when Pavement came out, I might have thought SM and Spiral Stairs’ mixture of post-punk and classic rock was derivative of The Fall. Point is, you can be derivative (everyone is) and still produce memorable songs. Malkmus and Kannberg had great songwriting chops that were immediately apparent; Hooray for Earth’s tunes feel unadorned, as if they’re emulating a sound instead of writing a song that comes from within. Then again, I’ve never understood why anyone would release a pop song that isn’t overpowered by hooks.
It’s more than just being able to write a good hook, though. There’s plenty of disposable music that’s catchy. If one is going to do something like take a number of styles and incorporate them together, there has to be a more fundamental truth to the music than just some post-modern Dr. Moreau-ing. We can do that all day – some guy in Brooklyn’s probably combining Reggaeton and that Bulgarian Women’s Choir as I type. Maybe the results are cute or clever or worth a post on The Daily What, but if there isn’t that sense that the artist has put himself or herself truly into the work, then the results come off as ephemeral. Hooray for Earth certainly aren’t as frivolous as this imagined asshole I’ve made up (he also ironically carries around a bullhorn), and their sound is likely more a subconscious result of whatever’s in the cultural air rather than some deliberate attempt to cash in. If anything, that’s the problem – instead of forging a path of their own and making something with an internal truth, Hooray for Earth sounds like it’s a product of the times. That’s not necessarily a dig – how many people can truly transcend their circumstances? – just an explanation of why I don’t find True Loves that engaging.