Melding together Krautrock, indie pop, electronics and shoegaze, Pale Blue Eyes started a fire last year with their neat debut album ‘Souvenirs’. A homespun, DIY project, it found the Devon-based outfit melting together playful experimentation with some pleasingly heart-on-sleeve songwriting. Shifting location – to fellow DIY citadel Sheffield – on this quickfire follow-up, the trio retain the charms of their debut while filtering through fresh aspects.
The album opens with ‘More’, a track that feels stylistically tied to their debut. Dulcet indie pop with a thumping bassline, it’s a song about escape, and it carries a rare sense of freedom. ‘Shimmering’ is a little more overtly psychedelic, the clipped, minimalist guitar line having a Lou Reed feel. Upping the urgency, it deals with doubt and grief, the Neu!-esque bass part charging headlong to the horizon.
Matching the innate pop suss of their debut, ‘This House’ benefits from broadening the palette a little. ‘Hang Out’ is textured in analogue electronics, the Beach Boys by way of Django Django harmonies suddenly erupting into a divine pop moment. ‘Spaces’ has some golden guitar aspects, while ‘Heating’s On’ – could there be a more appropriate song title for a band freshly ensconced to Yorkshire? – swaps the autobahn for a journey on the M67.
While there is perhaps an over-reliance on those Krautrock / kosmische rhythms, ‘This House’ doesn’t disappoint. ‘Million Times Over’ is wonderfully heartfelt, the icy synths matched to those widescreen guitar chords. “Do you ask yourself / What else could we do here?” chime the band, lost in a moment of doubt.
Closing with the direct, dark ‘Takes Me Over’ – with its Peter Hook bassline and post-punk beats – the album surges to conclusion with the slomo ‘Underwater’, its shoegaze flourishes so redolent of Slowdive, say, yet without allowing those sonic reference points to over-power the quiet intensity of the song itself.
A record of a band in evolution, ‘This House’ deals with aging, identity, grief, and moving on – profound topics, but not ones Pale Blue Eyes choose to shy away from. A potent follow-up, it leaves us eager to hear where the band might go next.
Words: Robin Murray