In retrospect, this gem of the Chippewa Valley music scene had quite the all-star lineup. After breaking up, all the members went on to play in successful groups: Brian Moen – Peter Wolf Crier, Laarks. Josh Scott – self titled solo act. Phil and Brad Cook – Megafaun. Looking to the future is a healthy thing, and focusing on the potential of these newer acts leaves plenty to be excited about. But, despite Amateur Love’s status as permanently dissembled, and despite the fact the LP in question has been off the market for a few years and its net distribution will remain more or less fixed at a humble number of households it already occupies, still, the music is good enough to draw attention to whenever possible.
Part of the reason the album is so intriguing is that it combines two pop culture influences that contain very different emotional connotations. The crisp dance beats and pulsing currents of synth noise conjure the detached up-beat quality of electro-pop, while the soft fuzz of simple, melody friendly chords – outlined by the bass and guitar – and crooning lead vocals evokes the sincere melancholy of generic alternative rock. This combination could amount to incoherency. In Amateur Love the two parts are woven together seamlessly because, among other things, the members play off each other really well. On the keyboards Phil provides lush currents of sound that evoke the ethereal joy of water in motion. Flowing melodies and gurgling rivulets of noise occur throughout the album the effect is delightful but also mysterious. This effect is reinforced in the lyrics as they dip in Scott’s subconscious at will, playfully juxtaposing astute observation with surrealist imagery.
These elements are complimented by the rhythm section. Moen’s drumming is technically immaculate and immensely powerful, but he avoids being overbearing with sophisticated displays of dynamic shading. He chooses his moments carefully, executes a controlled explosion of a drum fill with all the precision of a demolitions expert, and recedes quickly back into the mix. To this Brad Cook adds his rock-solid texture-thickening bass to form a cement corridor of a rhythm section that provides direction to the mysterious vibrancy contained in other parts of the music.
The way the band works together is the reason the music works so well. Listen to the attached track, check out the tracks on their Myspace page, find someone who has the album. Meanwhile I’ll draw up a petition demanding they reunite. By the time you’re done listening, you might want to sign it yourself.
- Caleb Price, May 2, 2011