An adorable jangle-pop statement.
The WEA subsidiary Blanco Y Negro probably had its biggest hit of the ‘80s with the Jesus and Mary Chain, but the label’s signature was a far cry from that heavily distorted pop. The Blanco Y Negro sound was more typically in a fey, modest vein, such as Everything But The Girl or Fantastic Something. While the former’s Tracey Thorn has enjoyed a long career in spotlight, the Greek brothers Alex and Constantin Veis never released another album, their fragile, achingly gorgeous catalogue limited to their 1985 debut and the EP’s worth of material that was released in 2001 on the essential Songs in a Small Room. So elusive is this work that fans of the band may not even be aware that the band’s self-effacing leader, Constantin Veis, released what may be the best album of his career in 2014. Resurrected Elsewhere, released on Seattle’s Jigsaw records, is an adorable jangle-pop statement that’s more consistent than anything he’s recorded before.
Veis writes catchy pop songs in the vein of the slightly awkward singer-songwriter for whom English is a second language. (If you like Jens Lekman, come closer…closer.) On Fantastic Something’s sole album, the duo’s harmonizing voices were mixed down slightly so you’d have to lean into hear such soft-voiced romantic sentiments as “The Night We Flew out the Window.” The 2001 EP made gorgeous magic out of ordinary sentiments such as “Go With the Flow” and “And I Love Her” but it only offered five songs, and Veis’ 2002 album Memory-La was overproduced and lost the tender touch of his best work.
Credited to the Glamorous Lifesavers (simply a multi-tracked Veis), Resurrected Elsewhere is indeed like a raising of the dead, and in a more perfect form. The album begins with the jangle-pop chord heaven of “Sweet Hill Observatory.” This being a Veis recording, the vocals are mixed a little low, and some of the lyrics that emerge are at odds with the thoroughly endearing melody: “please believe me I don’t need affection.” More darkly, the chorus digs in its heels: “Sweet Hill observatory/ I cannot change my point of view.” If the vocals were mixed more audibly that might work against the infectious hooks, but leaning into the song for comprehension, it’s hard not to analyze it as the confession of a shy pop genius who’s been content to hide his gifts under a rock for a dozen years.
That opener also sets up Resurrected Elsewhere as kind of a jangle-pop concept album that progresses from that isolated observatory to, well, elsewhere. And aptly, the cover image is of the singer in an empty room, reflected in a full-length sliding mirror that breaks up his head.
Out of this self-reflection, the hooks keep on coming, and so do the guitars–“True and Diamond,” which begins to question the isolated existence of a “great pretender” (rhyme: :”hey big spender”) again offsets barely audible lyrics with delicately finger-picked chords and the kind of aching instrumental bridge that made Fantastic Something one of the unheralded tunesmiths of the ‘80s.
With all his bright melodies, Veis could sing the phone book and it would sound like a hit. Fortunately, as the lyrics become clearer, they don’t suffer. “The First World I Ever Made” is a melancholy minor-key lament, with music more suited to its theme: “it was destined to fail.” But a key change turns more optimistic: “I’ve got time/ All the time in the world to get better.”
Veis’ lyrics go in a brighter direction as the concept proceeds. “Jesus Fell in Love” is one of the baroque-pop highlights, swelling into a synthesized string section which makes the gentle argument that Veis deserves a proper orchestral budget. But he can weave a spell from simple finger-picking, as on the closer “In 2000 Years from Now When We’re All Still Around,” envisioning a paradise “when no one dies.” It may not seem that long between Veis projects, but that’s the kind of patience you may need. It will be worth the wait.