Grouplove’s biggest asset is their ability to channel a special kind of indie escapism reserved for only the catchiest of songs. Their 2011 debut, Never Trust A Happy Song, was a juggernaut of quirky Apple commercial-worthy earworms about naked kids prancing around beaches, making out at your best friend’s house, and general tongue-in-cheek debauchery. I haven’t a goddamn clue what “Itchin’ On A Photograph” means, but its melody and Christian Zucconi’s James Mercer-on-steroids vocals are so supremely sticky that I was always too busy dancing to care. Unfortunately, far too many tracks on the their sophomore LP, Spreading Rumours, hear the LA space cadets sounding, well, grounded.
There are a few moments – namely the spazzy funk on “Borderlines And Aliens” and the bubblegum hip-hop breakdown on “Shark Attack” – that will undoubtedly serve as dorm room background noise for many undergrad gatherings this year, but the album’s lasting appeal won’t fare as well. Though impeccably produced by the band’s own Ryan Rabin, much of the song-crafting on Spreading Rumours feels rushed. Tracks like “Schoolboy” and “What I Know” hint at their googly-eyed pop weirdness, but in both cases you can see the hooks coming from a mile away. Elsewhere, “I’m With You” gets bogged down in a two-minute drum outro, and “Sit Still” does exactly what its title suggests.
Another issue with Spreading Rumours is its ungodly length. At 13 songs and 51 min, it’s a difficult pill to swallow in one sitting. It’s never a good sign when a pop record feels like something to be muscled through. Even worse is that this results in shining moments like “Raspberry” (which sounds like Frank Black lost in a candy store) getting buried 45 min into the album. For a band like Grouplove who is normally so devoted to being in-your-face with their sugary power pop, it’s a shame that on Spreading Rumours they make you work so hard to find bits worth enjoying.
Essential Tracks: “Raspberry”, “Borderlines And Aliens”, and “Shark Attack”