Love Club (Legere)
There is no such thing as guilty pleasures in music; that’s a term devised by people who take music ironically. If you like it, if it gives you pleasure, then why be guilty? If you think it’s embarrassing, then you probably don’t really like it enough and should probably stick to the things everyone else around you does.
What’s that got to do with this album? As with his previous record, The Imposter, Joel Sarakula swims in – and drinks deeply from, if you want to mix your metaphors like you mix your cocktails – a pool which is meant to be among the guiltiest of guilty pleasures: easy-on-the-ears ‘70s pop, soul/pop, yacht rock, lounge pop.
Harmonies here are cushioned and female backing vocals coo or trill. Rhythms mostly roll along in cruise mode, sometimes dropping back to what might encourage a loverman croon if Sarakula had a deeper voice. And when they step up a gear it’s more likely to get you trying on that style Billy Crystal called white man’s overbite than bust any vigorous moves. Guitars sometimes make Silk Degrees sound Zeppelinesque, and while strings put some glide in your stride, brass accentuate the positive rather than accelerate the activity.
So, yeah it’s easy. Easy does it. Ease on down the road. Easy on the ear, easy on the feet. You can hear Hall & Oates when they stilled wanted to be a soul band, Bee Gees just before they went full disco, Earth Wind And Fire just after they crossed over, Boz Scaggs in a white suit, Paul Weller in boat shoes and a striped shirt, and Doobie Brothers on the cusp.
Cinnamon Surprise may throw in some sitar-like guitar but its roots are in the Philadelphia of Gamble & Huff, all shoulder dips and hip nudges; Coldharbour Man has a pimp roll of a bassline and swinging-in-unison brass; the guitar riff from In Trouble is like someone enticing you up from your seat, to be met by congas taking you by the hand; and if the ‘80s synth of Coney Island Getaway has you thinking this may be going somewhere off-road, you will soon be thinking that you should always believe in your soul, and you’ve got the power to know, you’re indestructible.
Some of my favourite moments here pull back from the groove a bit. Baltic Jam, is smooching and smoothing in the same moment, Winter Elegy may as well come with a satin comforter and a water bed, and Theme From The Love Club is more warmly satisfied exit music from a night of lovemaking than any beginning of the play come-hither-move.
Best of all - and really why Sarakula is ultimately more satisfying than someone like Donny Benet, who amuses in short bursts working some similar territory, and Chromeo, who may have blown all their best moments on their fourth album - is that he isn’t being ironic, and he writes songs that bear repeated listening.
Yes, it may be that easy.