Charming enough, but this collaboration is perhaps too nostalgic.
Matthew Horton 2009-09-08
For a band so entwined in the ‘shambling’ movement of the mid-80s, The Pastels have done a fine job of keeping it together. While most of the other anorak-clad indie groups celebrated on NME’s pivotal C86 tape have long been consigned to jangly memory, these Glaswegian trailblazers have continued to pop up, immune to the passing of time, strangers to success.
Since 1997’s Illumination however, Pastels mainstays Stephen McRobbie and Katrina Mitchell have released only one true album of new material – the largely instrumental, subdued soundtrack to 2002 film The Last Great Wilderness – concentrating instead on developing their label Geographic. The imprint is a haven for alternative Japanese bands, and paved the way to this team-up with Tokyo duo Tenniscoats.
It’s a seamless match. Tenniscoats are devotees of the sort of twee chamber pop exemplified by Belle and Sebastian, natural Glaswegian descendants of The Pastels, and bring airy woodwind and singer Saya’s breathy vocals to an already gossamer-light mix.
Oddly, opener Tokyo Glasgow picks up where The Last Great Wilderness left off, painting wistful, instrumental pictures, but Two Sunsets itself sets the tone for the rest of the record, Saya cooing shyly as a distant harmonica weaves a poignant melody. It’s a motif largely repeated on Song for a Friend, notwithstanding a rare appearance on the microphone from McRobbie.
The pace of the album is restful, the mood pensive. Exceptions are McRobbie’s mild power-pop take on The Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1987 slow-burner About You, which apes the West Coast warmth of Pastels pals Teenage Fanclub, and single Vivid Youth. The latter sees Pastels/Tenniscoats get their groove on for a change, Mitchell whispering over some woozy flute and Curtis Mayfield-style guitar fills.
Elsewhere, Sodane flirts with the indie dancefloor and throws in some polite handclaps while Boats shimmers with the lo-fi warmth of Mazzy Star - but these are just moments from the general drift.
In the end, much of Two Sunsets recalls the trimmings of a Saint Etienne album: nostalgic, calm meanderings that sound awfully pretty while adding little to the sum of human existence. It’s charming enough on the whole, but never really offers a compelling reason for the collaboration.