About two years ago the song “Archie, Marry Me” by Alvvays was played constantly at a bar in Cologne that I have been frequenting.
The song is musically orientated a classic twee pop virtues but did outstand formative cliches by sounding like part of Neil Young’s repertoire at the same time. Although I’m still not sure why the song is so great. The subject might figure into this – the name Archie does, on grounds of a diffuse reason, not seem to refer to someone worthy of marriage, which might be bollocks.
„In Undertow“ and „Dreams Tonite“, the first two songs of the new Alvvays album are reaching the level of “Archie, Marry Me”. The first has a great video, which thrives on an artificial, unreal aesthetic in which the members of the band from Toronto are moving like Luke Skywalker through the evacuated Cloud City on Bespin before meeting Darth Vader for the duel. Singer Molly Ranking appears to be especially cool in her white overalls à la Pete Townsend (around 1973) and with eyes straight ahead into the camera, especially since her facial expressions don’t betray the slightest hint of a smile. Everyone who has seen this video will tell a woman to smile (although this should be common knowledge anyway). The song gets easily stuck in your head with its fuzzy guitars, and that runs through a hypothetical break-up scenario and in which recounts what you can spend your time on “after the fact”: “meditate, play solitaire”. Of course. I like the little breaks and particularities in the lyrics that seem to describe an area of tension between detachment, apathy and vulnerability.
The pop-ballad “Dreams Tonight starts off with the line “rode here on a bus / now you’re one of us”, which captured me immediately. A social circle establishes itself through the commonality of the place, at the same time it always retains its anonymity, which distinguishes a public place, like a bus. The contradiction of proximity and distance that is being laid out here determines the complete orientation of the song.
For long periods the album tends to vary a strummy C-86-style that reminds me of “Rock Legends: Volume 69“ by Talulah Gosh, although Alvvays’ production sounds more complex and “professional”. This is exemplarily represented by “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)” with its multiple guitar tracks that are creating a special dynamic without clogging the sound. Alvvays are contrasting themselves from similar bands by acting less one-dimensional. Their attitude does not forgo humor but is obviously not blatantly silly. There is always a hesitant element inherent to the songs that emphasizes their fundamental fragility. There is no danger of collapse in the progress.
Translation by Denise Oemcke