Past Is Pastiche: HAIM’s ‘Something To Tell You’ Reviewed

HAIM – Something To Tell You (Haim Productions Inc./Polydor)

LA sisters HAIM swap the youthful exuberance of their debut for a heartbroken and weary sense of adulthood on their second LP.

If pop music’s charm in the ‘grand old days’ was largely down to an accesible, organic sincerity then HAIM’s position as zeitgeist sparks makes perfect sense. Their debut album, 2013’s Days Are Gone and its ensuing success were proof that original and back-to-basics approaches to pop that that permeated the 1970’s were actually pretty inter-generational, and harnessed the communal feeling that pop used to have, rather than the trite tribalism now spearheaded by trap bangers and Beliebers. It’s also true that the debut had a coming-of-age sense of naturalness that was accompanied by a healthy sense of looking forward, in turn encouraging an ‘onwards-and-upwards’ march into adulthood where mistakes made were relatable and slightly charming.

Four years on and seemingly much has changed for HAIM both as a band and as people. Something To Tell You marks the appropriation of the kind of production gloss that tends to come with success, as well as an attempt at a more mature approach to heartbreak. There’s no real sense of sass or youthful abandon here; these songs revel in their own loneliness and guilt, and the overall atmosphere to Something…, on paper at least, is a heavy one. Whilst it seems slightly churlish to second-guess the true nature of this album, the charisma is often sapped out by a type of sheen and songwriting that feels unfortunately flat.

On a handful of occasions the pristine layering and more meticulous musicianship come together with distinct and rather fabulous results. ‘Want You Back’ indulges in those tropes while retaining a softness that feels genuinely sensitive against a backdrop that sounds much bigger and richer. ‘Little Of Your Love’ is the most directly chart-totting tune here, even recalling Little Mix’s ‘Black Magic’ with its grinning stomp and achieves a level of energy to match much of the debut. ‘Kept Me Crying’ is the highlight among the deep cuts, its addictive and precise doo-wop referencing bounce being simply undeniable and the fuzzy, harmonised guitar soloing works unexpectedly well.

However, besides these moments Something… feels unfortunately gripped by lifelessness, best encapsulated by the title track and increasingly run-of-the-mill lyricism. There’s a sense of pastiche that runs through tracks like ‘You Never Knew’, whose penchant for classicism is irritatingly derivative. ‘Ready For You’ has a strident chorus which provides the only sense of character in its innocuous off-kilter bounce, and songs like ‘Right Now’ and ‘Found It In Silence,’ despite attempts at life-affirming key changes and dynamic shifts, just add nothing textually or artistically.

Of course, it’s easy to over-analyse pop music, but everything about Something To Tell You portrays a band who want to be taken seriously. The band’s intentions certainly aren’t cynical; rather it seems that they’re still too enthralled by the records they grew up with to carve any real sonic vigour with this change in direction. The chief lack on this album is identity, and that reflects the disingenuous change in the pop music game over the last three decades – throw money at something and watch it lose it’s idiosyncrasy.

5/10

Key Tracks: ‘Kept Me Crying,’ ‘Want You Back’

For Fans Of: Fleetwood Mac, Lorde

 

 

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