As the means of production for making a record have transitioned from a band holing up in a bunker with some nutty producer to the average Joe creating multi-tracked recordings using a couple pieces of software on his MacBook, so too have the people making said records changed. Instead of the streetwalkin’ cheetahs, goo goo mucks, and other assorted weirdos and juvenile delinquents of yore, today’s musician is more likely to be an upstanding citizen with a respectable freelance gig on the side as a web designer or some such thing.
It comes as no surprise then that much of what is reverberating across the virtual airwaves of today lacks any real sense of danger, dementia, or even, at the very least, titillation. Case in point: Forever, the debut album by Bay-area duo Painted Palms. By the band’s own admission, they made this record on their computers, exchanging ideas over the internet as they had done when they first began collaborating from distant locales even though they now live in the same city. Call me old-fashioned, but there’s something to be said for getting together in the same room to bash out ideas or even to create the kind of fabricated pop in which Painted Palms specialize.
Indeed, Forever sounds as if it was made by a computer, coming off like the audial equivalent of coding on cuts like “Too High” and “Not Really There” or simply limp as on the appropriately titled “Soft Hammer.” Admittedly, there is nothing truly offensive here, and some songs like “Here It Comes” and “Empty Gun” have moments where their post-ELO pop charms shine through. And “Carousel” pulls a slightly moodier bent with smirkingly sticky undertones. Painted Palms’ strength is in their balmy, unhurried melodies. But even such melodic virtues are no match for the sexless nothingness that permeates this record.