We realize that an album easily assessed on first pass as “Jesus & Mary Chain sans ardor” does not sound promising. But were the London-based Proper Ornaments’ melodies even nearly as smashing as J&M Chain on a good day (and they are, nearly), that alone would be worth your droopy, dog days of summer ears. Add in that we should accept that probably all bands, post-Prozac prescribing era, will be energy-sapped comparatively. And hence we full-circle the cynicism shit back to that trusty “Are there songs?” maxim (there are), and what we have here is a psych-pop, foot-gazing gem that sometimes gets around to playing footsie too.
This band comes with the kind of ready-made (crafted?) story the Brits love to catty on about, this one concerning leader Maximo Claps leaving Buenos Aires, Argentina after his previous band dissolved amid drug problems. His parents had planned to ship him off to a mental hospital, but not before getting hit by a car and escaping the hospital to fly off to England with the help of legendary producer Andrew Loog Oldham. So maybe the kid’s just shell-shocked. Or savvy. Either way, the talent, looks and UK hype abound, so expect to hear more. This is Proper Ornaments’ debut album after a 2013 collection of odds and ends called, appropriately enough, Waiting For The Summer. Well, the season has arrived.
The lack of ubiquitously fuzzy multi-layering allows the tasty guitar tones and comely hooks to flow freely in the wind—especially pretty on Ruby; the jangly, paisley shirt tails-flowing Now I Understand and Magazine; the just-scrunchy enough drive of Stereolab. Step Into The Cold gets a little jittery right when this smooth album needs it. And there’s a hint of that New Zealand warble-clank in there (Tire Me Out), like lime green socks peeking out of the bottom of vintage striped flare pants.
Always There and What Am I To Do might make them neo-garage-pop’s Association, so watch how lilting you get there, lads! And just as I was going to commend them on doing the LP concept proud and including 14 songs (notice how many nine-song “albums” and EPs there are these days?), it becomes apparent they probably could’ve cut the last two songs.
Given the obvious influences, this could’ve been way more unnecessarily spacey than it is. And that reliable Slumberland Records tag means things might get trippy but never hippy-dippy. All of which makes this a solid, ambling around, summer daytime soundtrack, rather than the numerous nighttime ruminators we’ve already been frequently offered this year.
Are Proper Ornaments promising enough to declare yet another Beatle boot reboot? No. Are they good enough live to elevate them beyond also-ran? That’s to be seen. Are we starting to worry that a genre shark is about to jump up and bite us any moment now? Shiver… But it’s cool, jump in, the water is fine. Sometimes there are four guys whose hair is so rightly shagged, legs so wobbly gangly, and amps so tastefully vintage that you have to throw your hands up and just let the baby have his bottle of lysergics.