Pink Is The Colour Of Unconditional Love (DotDash/Remote Control)
Gabriella Cohen makes pop music for people who would like to think themselves above that kind of thing.
Sure, she also makes it for those who like a tune, like a hook, like something to sing along with, don’t care if anyone’s watching and just get off on some funny things among the serious. That’s easy, relatively speaking: they - that is, me and you and a bunch of others too – aren’t embarrassed by enjoying all that.
But Cohen’s special talent is often enough making her songs oddly shaped, oddly arranged, oddly presented and oddly matching in styles so that those who believe that the only good music is indie/different/definitely not easy to grasp on first listens – you know, “proper music” get sucked in before they realise – gasp! – Cohen is making fine fine pop music.
With right hand woman Kate Dillon along as usual (the pair produced and engineered this album) Cohen finds ways to channel preppie ‘50s pop, prickly ‘90s indie, relaxed ‘60s fare and some kind of country Victoria surf. And then for fun, a dash of wistful/wasted melancholy-cum country noir to finish the album that feels like the natural sequel to an earlier song which declares “I feel so lonely” but makes you want to hug it.
Cohen does all that with a lightly sardonic tone that isn’t trying to be a smart arse but isn’t scared of being smart either. Take the guitar twang-meets-slacker drone of album opener Music Machine (whose backing vocals remind you of another Cohen), and its companion piece immediately after, Baby, which feels more like the Go-Betweens in its off-hand pop frames.
Both songs have enough of a sarcastic take on work and life to make you feel you can nod knowingly but they actually retain a core of faith in people; both songs suggest enough musical ennui to disguise the fact they lodge in your ear like they’re settling in for the winter.
Another play on weaknesses (ours, not hers) is the delightfully named Neil Young Goes Crazy which cushions its verses like the Carpenters have moved into the studio while sometimes unadorned guitar chomps away on bars like they might be chocolate and nuts. But then a couple of minutes in it turns into a mid-70s gloomy-Neil Young crawl across the ice face, one guitar snaking, another chopping into it and the mood gets just a little bit squirelly.
The shock of that song is that it ends only about five minutes in, just when Crazy Horse would have taken it somewhere out on the edge. But then Cohen is too smart to give in to such obvious temptation: far better to slip into the fieldworker garb of Recognise My Fate and let us imagine the full realisation of the folk-goes-grand potential lightly touched on here.
That’s our job because by then (or maybe after the husky Doris Day dreaming of being Astrud Gilberto Morning Light), Cohen has done her job: got the cool kids winking at the references, got everyone else singing.