Veronica Falls

Veronica Falls

Rating: 2.0/5.0

Label: Slumberland / Bella Union

The sounds of C86 have become a fashionable sonic allusion, as well as one that quickly garners the attention and adoration of music bloggers. Most of the successful bands that have indulged in this reference, such as Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts, have come out of New York. When Veronica Falls released their first single, “Found Love in a Graveyard,” almost two years ago, there was immediate buzz over the seeming reclamation of the trendy, ’80s British indie sound for the country that spawned it. The band’s self-titled, full-length debut is not likely to live up to the hope generated by the band’s singles, as it reveals a palette that is both limited and transparently derivative.

Veronica Falls’ sound would belong almost completely to their forbears if it was not for the dark lyrical content. C86 bands usually show a fascination with starry-eyed ’60s pop; thus, Veronica Falls’ sinister lyrics of death and other macabre material provide an interesting, unexpected contrast. The previously mentioned “Found Love in a Graveyard” (rerecorded for this release) and “Bad Feeling” both tell tales of falling in love with ghosts over deceptively upbeat melodies. “Beachy Head” is an ode to a popular suicide locale. “Come on Over,” the album’s final cut, is the only deviation from the record’s dark mood. Lyrics such as, “It’s getting colder/ come on over/ till it’s over” could have been lifted from a doo-wop ballad.

Each of the songs on Veronica Falls involves a simple formula of jangling guitars, tambourines and boy-girl harmonizing. The four-piece band has a definite ramshackle quality. Marion Herbain, the bassist, reportedly learned to play in only month’s time. Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare’s guitars are dueling and reverb drenched, but lack sufficient feral force to be engaging throughout the entire record. The only departure from the band’s ragged pattern is “Beachy Head,” which throws in a dash of surf-punk, as well as the oomph that is lacking elsewhere on the album. Veronica Falls are very reliant on their harmonizing, which is present on every track. The vocals involved, however, are pallid and jejune. Perhaps this is deliberate, in keeping with the band’s creepy, ethereal aesthetic. Either way, both the male and female vocalists in Veronica Falls deliver invariably dull performances.

Veronica Falls’ dash of gloom added to the sunny skies of the well-worn C86 sound is interesting enough to grab the attention of listeners with a solid 7-inch, but it’s ultimately too diluted and colorless to remain satisfying over a full length. The best cuts on Veronica Falls are those that stray the furthest from what they’ve offered before. Veronica Falls would benefit from choosing a side: either go all in on the bright shimmer or delve into the abyss. It’s not much fun listening to them skulking in the gray space in between.

by Frank Matt

Key Tracks: Beachy Head, Come on Over

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