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Big Thief – UFOF

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Brooklynites’ third album is nice, but needs to let rip more.

Image of Big Thief – UFOF

(4AD, out Fri 3 May 2019)

Dream pop seems to be having a bit of a moment. Melody’s Echo Chamber, Gwenno and Beach House all make work that seems well suited to those of us who were well into shoegazing in the 90s (I’m not calling it “shoegaze” as I’m not a millennial) – the post-Cocteau Twins era music which aimed for heart as well as head.

So it is with Big Thief, the New York-based band whose sound often harkens back to the noise/quiet/noise dynamic beloved of fringe wearing, black clad introverts into poetry and walls of feedback.

UFOF (the last F tentatively stands for “friends”) seems to be located in the kind of places where survivalists hang out, waiting for the end of days with huge supplies of food, artillery and tin foil hats. With Trump seemingly hellbent on total despotism, they’re possibly on the right (ley)lines.

Adrianne Lenker has the sweet, sad-eyed vocals and country guitar picking on the elliptical Cattails. From and Century (the latter referencing dead dogs) take inspiration from underrated eccentric artists like Mary Margaret O’Hara, when things get murkier and stranger. Lenker’s voice is lovely, often little more than a whisper or a wounded yelp. Sometimes, as on the closing track Magic Dealer, it sounds like she’s murmuring confessions right next to you, but they’re not necessarily coming from a comforting or reassuring place.
Open Desert is a pretty acoustic thing, and Terminal Paradise an affecting and intimate waltz with death in its sight, but Jenni is the most interesting track by far, Lenker and Buck Meek’s guitars duelling in a post-grunge haze reminiscent of Neil Young at his most uncompromising.
More snarling beasts like this would keep the listeners on their toes. They are a fine band, it would just be good to have more viscera and fire in the music, equal to their creepy and disturbing lyrics.