TOPS – Tender Opposites

17 Apr

TOPS is the Montreal-based foursome of singer/synth Jane Penny, guitarist David Carriere, bassist Tom Gillies and drummer Riley Fleck.  Their debut, Tender Opposites, was released in February of this year on Arbutus Records (also home to Grimes).  I read only two things prior to hearing this record: 1) The production is similar to “new” Ariel Pink, and 2) TOPS bites a Fleetwood Mac sound, particularly Stevie Nicks.  Needless to say, I was pretty psyched.

Aside: Stevie Nicks was such a frigging babe before her five-nostriled coke problem…

*     *     *

A track-by-track analysis seems reasonable because what the hell else can one do with an 8-track LP?

The opener, “Evening,” is pretty in it’s Dido-ish easy listening sort of way but feels 30 seconds too short if not just short of something in general.  The follow-up, “Diamond Look,” feels a minute too long and sounds like a Pretenders cover band minus sex appeal.  The catchy synth pulse of “VII Babies” is trounced by the vomitous, “do-do” heavy chorus.  “Double Vision,” which thankfully has absolutely nothing to do with Foreigner, wouldn’t be a bad track in its vaseline lens’d Hall & Oates-eyness if it were half its length and it revealed lyrically whether or not the singer is a narcissistic freak who wants to swap spit with her own image or, instead, obsesses over the reflection of her lover in a mirror.  Please see my schematics below…

Above: Scenario 1 – A slack-jawed singer (because I’ve never been able to draw women that don’t resemble fish) and an artful, slim rectangle to represent a sidelong mirror.  No lipstick, but you get the picture.

Above: Scenario 2 – A view from behind as the singer stares at an image of her beloved (which is clearly me with a mustache) accented by poorly drawn pink hearts to represent infatuation.  Ah, the wonders of Microsoft Paint…

The album starts to gain some stability/listenablity with “Go Away” and the single, “Turn Your Love Around.”  The click and one-off wood block percussion on “Go Away” and the Fleetwood disco of the “Turn Your Love Around” are somewhat infectious.  “Rings of Saturn” would be more compelling if Penny didn’t sound so bored; instead, it sounds like an Aislers Set discard.  The “TOPS Theme” outro is just mis-placed filler.  It’s an enjoyable instrumental.  It’s not a sendoff.

Tender Opposites has its merits and won’t discourage listens to future endeavors, but it leaves the listener only mildly amused.

Noteworthy Tracks: “Go Away” and “Turn Your Love Around”

Rating: **1/2

Check out “Turn Your Love Around” live…

I’d like to give the band more adorable points for Jane Penny, but that sort of thing is frowned upon in the realm of semi-serious (or semi-semi-serious) criticism.  Tender Opposites was almost a *** record.  I have to control myself.

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