A break-up album full of affection and understanding.
Wyndham Wallace 2012
Working with a romantic partner is always hard. But for those with bands, forced to live in close proximity in buses and dressing rooms, it’s especially tough.
For Nona Marie Invie and Marshall LaCount, co-founders of Minneapolis’ Dark Dark Dark, it proved too much: they split a year after the release of 2010’s Wild Go, leaving them to deal with the repercussions as they continued touring.
Most bands would quit, but they made it through, taking time out at the end of 2011 before returning to the studio earlier this year. It’s no surprise therefore that Who Needs Who addresses their separation.
If it was a bitter break-up, it’s hard to tell. This album is polite, almost to a fault. “If I said I never thought of you,” Invie sings on the delicate Patsy Cline, “Well, that would be a lie.” There’s no sense that reconciliation is on the cards, of course, but the overriding mood is one of compassion driven by a need to understand what went wrong.
In the same song, Invie also displays a neat ability to encapsulate disappointment and record the relief of its subsequent retreat: “I thought that we’d meet up in a week or two and we’d slow-dance to Patsy Cline at the bar,” she continues, “But now that you’re gone my life goes on.”
Such civility is evident throughout an album that regularly recalls the sweet melancholy of Aimee Mann, its gentle character – on songs like How It Went Down – carried along on a foundation of piano and restrained drums.
There’s also an occasional tendency towards the theatrical, with the slow pacing of the title track unexpectedly interrupted by a change of tempo and bursts of trumpet. Atmospheric accordion provides further welcome variety on the French-flavoured Without You, and echoing guitar effects add a shadowy edge to the poignant Hear Me.
At times Invie allows her melodies to override her lyrics, resulting in a slightly clumsy delivery. But this forgiving, tender album still offers a welcome, optimistic twist on the normally bitter genre of break-up albums.