Little Green Cars - Absolute Zero
It’s already topped the charts in Ireland, and now the rest of the UK gets to savour the many delights of Little Green Cars’ debut album Absolute Zero, its very title a challenge to critics to give the Dublin five-piece that dreaded Eurovision points tally. Instead, a single track aside (more on that later), this might just be one of the most uplifting albums about dark, depressing subjects ever.
A contradiction perhaps, but Little Green Cars revel in it. Just look at the album cover. The back of a head view suggests that captured glance of a past (or even future) lover, while the rear cover shows that very face crying, suggesting a somewhat different and depressing reality. Maybe we’re thinking too much into it, but the very first track of the album combines upbeat percussion and choral harmonies with lyrics like: “There’s a gun in the attic, let me go grab it / I’d blow holes in my soul just so you can look past it”. Darkness happily resides in Little Green Cars’ world.
Not that we’re not happy to go there. Of Absolute Zero’s many joyous aspects, the one that ensures repeat listens is the outstanding dual vocals. Whether it’s Faye O'Rourke’s slightly throaty vocals, as on ‘My Love Took Me Down...’ or Stevie Appleby’s somewhat fragile turns on the likes of the emotional, stripped-back closer ‘Goodbye Blue Monday’, there’s always something to admire and to captivate the eardrums. It’s what makes the decision to over-produce and synthesize Appleby’s vocals on ‘Red And Blue’ all the more baffling, resulting in the album’s one major mis-step.
Fortunately it’s followed by the centrepiece of the album: the subtly devastating ‘The Kitchen Floor’. Here, O’Rourke’s vocals take on a softer edge, practically honey on the ears as she sings about a painful break-up: “I’m just a case you had removed when all the pain was over / I’ll sit at home, you’ll never know the things you make me think of”. As a listener, we can take the pain because we know that in Little Green Cars’ world, light is just around the corner. As Appleby says, the album is also about “the beauty of a reckless youth” and it’s this blend of the upbeat with the low-key that makes Absolute Zero an exhilarating listen. If you want a pick-me-up, lose yourself in the jaunty ‘Angel Owl’; if you feel the need for a good cry, let ‘The Consequences Of Not Sleeping’ be your soundtrack.
What’s more remarkable is that we’ve gone this whole review without mentioning one of last year’s finest tracks, ‘The John Wayne’. As vibrantly soaring as the first time we heard it, it not only delivers the band's blueprint – sharp hooks and beautiful vocal harmonies – but also gives a statement we heartily agree with – “It’s easy to fall in love with you”. Well, when you make an album as thrilling and powerfully affecting as Absolute Zero, Little Green Cars sure do make it even easier.