2 out of 5
Produced by: Chris Common
In the album credits for Constant Lovers’ True Romance, you can see that everyone – including producer Chris Common, including drummer Mike Hogan, in addition to his drums – gets a ‘percussion’ credit. Now, yeah, that doesn’t have to mean anything in and of itself: percussion can cover a lot, and certainly each band member could be taking up tambourine, or whatever you want to group under that banner, on different songs. But as I cycled through the group’s debut, several times, trying to figure out why its brash rattle just wasn’t landing for me, I kept coming around to this aspect, which my brain kept interpreting as an overkill where everyone is banging on percussive instruments all the time. Certainly that’s not the case with True Romance, but the association had been made because it might as well be: the album is always on, and always at a particular cadence and volume. Joel Culpin’s shouty yowl is great – he sounds equally stressed and excited, and his rasp is powerful without being exhausting – he just hits the same exact pitch and pace throughout, and his voice is unfortunately at a level such that words blend into the mid-range, their distinction lost. That mid-range is also taken up by Eric Fisher’s guitar, and Gavin Tull-Esterbrook’s bass, which are crystal clear and nice and Earthy, but don’t seem to provide any actual memorable riffs. And then Mike Horgan’s drums – loud, propulsive – but the generally constant, post-punk beat isn’t distinctive enough to stand above the other equally loud and propulsive elements. The “-punk” tag is probably a good touchpoint, here: punk albums often consisting of short blasts of riffs and shouting that can sound alike when dragged on for too long, and Constant Lovers are kinda sorta taking that template, and then slowing it down a bit so tracks hit the three- and four-minute mark. With some variations on that theme – changing up the pace, changing up the pitch, letting a particular instrument lead, instead of everyone playing at once – that would totally work, and the group’s core sound is certainly gripping enough for that. …But True Romance is lacking that variation, so even though it gets my head-bobbing with its punchy swagger from the outset, a few songs in, my interests inevitably wander.