Two years ago, Love Inks released their debut record, E.S.P., and got a fairly impressive amount of international attention (including a shoutout from NME) and blog love. For their recently released follow-up, Generation Club, the attention has been much more muted, perhaps understandably.
There is nothing on Generation Club“Blackeye” or their cover of “Rock On” from E.S.P.. In fact, the whole album has a much different tone from their debut. Thanks to the album title, you get the sense that this is Love Inks’ version of club music: insistent drum machines, overwhelming synthscapes, lyrics about love and lust. Much like its inspiration, though, Generation Club comes across sounding sonically monochromatic.
On E.S.P., Love Inks’ most compelling most came when they built their arrangements around change and space. If they weren’t shifting their drum machine beats within the track, they were often layering the music with moments that shifted from just guitar to just bass to softly building with the two. There was space in the production so that each instrumental part was clear, and the drum machines were full and varied.
On Generation Club, they lose a lot of that. Each song’s arrangement is pretty much consistent throughout; those quiet moments aren’t there to contrast the louder ones and thus the album loses the sense of drama that made their debut excel. The drum machine this time around sounds thin – like a rudimentary 80s Casio, instead of a full-sounding percussion set. The low-end doesn’t pack as much of a punch, and the fact that it’s rarely varied again. The result is like a less delicate Beach House, or a more caffeinated XX.Love Inks - 'Secret Tattoo'
The sameness of the arrangements (for most of the record) means that Sherry LeBlanc’s vocal melodies and lyrics have to do most of the heavy lifting, and there are certainly times where the songs are strong enough to still shine through the production. The triptych across the middle of the album – “Night Lunch,” “Time,” and “Secret Tattoo” – stands out in particular. But even this early Soundcloud version, with fewer synthesizers, clearer production and more space offers a look what these songs could have sounded like with a different approach, making a good song sound even better.
Certainly you can’t accuse Love Inks of staying static, or putting out E.S.P. Part II. But as with Pure X earlier this year, it is possible that, in the name of change, a band can lose sight of the elements that made them work in the first place. Love Inks is still a great band, writing great songs. I’m still eagerly awaiting their third album. But this time around they didn’t quite connect the way I imagine that they intended.
– Carter Delloro