Operator Please - Gloves
In what's turning out to be a good week for Australia (see our Teenagersintokyo review), it falls to this miserable keyboard jockey to send more yet plaudits across the waves, grateful that at last acts are turning the music in my head into tangible albums that demand the house lights be turned out, the strobe plugged in and the volume cranked up. It's not that there's anything particularly revelatory inside this old skull - essentially a kind of taught dance music with indie sensibilities soundtracks these dreams - but for someone endlessly disappointed by the reality of Ladytron rather than the promise, or the terrible misfire that was It's Blitz, Gloves comes as a blessed relief. Pointedly not an 'electro' album - I was corrected by frontlady Amandah Wilkinson on that point - Gloves still sees Operator Please adopt a more muscular approach to the beats, throwing in choppy guitars and raising the levels of the analogue synths in the mix to create the kind of album I want to listen to in 2010. And, to get all Alan Hansen for a moment, at the end of the day, that's all I care about right now. Capisce?
But the whispers in my ear say we have some kind of responsibility to you good, good people, so let me say 'Catapult' is the muscular funk that Franz Ferdinand failed with on Tonight With ... and it's to those Scottish chaps that overall comparisons are best made, OP successfully replicating the tension and drama inherent in FF's best work. If Alex and chums began with the intention of "making music for girls to dance to", Gloves is the sound that those girls make when firing the Korgs up for themselves: "You're sinking ships like a fist through a mirrorball!"
Having apparently spent time absorbing a lot of 80s and 90s pop during the creation process, you can sense the impact in the spot-on use of dynamics, the winding up of the thrills in the choruses, as on 'Logic' with its almost INXS-y sense of release. But this is neither pop of the day-glo nor post-modern variety, OP pulling on their indie roots for a more considered take on the genre, downbeat without being studied or overly dark. 'Oh My' is their version of Rilo Kiley's 'Portions For Foxes', the one that you just keep hitting 'repeat' over and over for, managing to maintain a sense of melancholy despite its up-tempo nature. The single 'Back and Forth' is a sweet shuffle-around-the-handbag affair (with Wilkinson pitched somewhere between ML Ciccone and Britney) and by the time 'Volcanic' hits at the mid-point, the place where most bands are utterly spent, they can pull out a near-perfect mix of big beats and furious chorus. And just when you think they can't have anything left in the tank, they hit you with the final one-two of the smart Madonna pop of 'Jealous' and the aching 'Like Magic', which has everything you might have wanted from Yeah Yeah Yeahs' foray into this world, from churchy organ to the helicopter drums of the chorus, Wilkinson leaving us with the somewhat enigmatic "I am in this ocean ..."
The lyrics are generally pretty abstract and the basic format is not particularly fresh or new, but what stands out is the execution. The response from others has been more muted, but this is just over 30 minutes of mod-pop perfection. If that sounds even vaguely interesting, Operator Please are surely deserving of your patronage.