Love of Diagrams
12 Track, LP (2009, Unstable Ape/Remote Control)
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If you don’t love ‘Forever’ - the lead single from Love of Diagram’s third album - you either have no soul, or more feasibly, no taste for early ’90s indie rock. Point blank, Nowhere Forever is derivative - almost defiantly so. It’s another unlikely reinvention from a notoriously restive group whose energies have always seen them tackle well-established tropes rather than something truly their own.
Can a group so eager to shed skins and inhabit the limpid forms of others really claim to have an identity? Love of Diagrams have a following – one of the biggest for an indie band in Australia – but how can you really root for a band that sounds so workmanlike in its desire to channel the past? The answer, I suppose, is a resolute fondness for the past, and ‘Forever’ is an undeniably affecting distillation of that wall-of-sound, head-just-above-the-ocean-surface indie shoegaze that tranquilised the UK during the early ’90s. ‘Forever’ has the carefully disengaged melancholy that made groups like Ride so formidable; a giddy textural rush that feels like watching a gaseous planet rotate with time-lapsed poignancy. The wall of guitars is so impenetrable that the group might have smelted it into shape, with all the oozing, glimmering half-melodies finally coalescing into a solidly devised pop song.
For a style that makes virtue of detachment, it’s funny just how relentlessly a band like Love of Diagram executes their moves. There is a craftsman’s subtlety at work here, but sonically Nowhere Forever is so bracingly loud, so determinably arresting, that it requires some perseverance to pan for the hooks, and naturally some are better than others. ‘A Part of You’ is a highlight, with Antonia Sellbach’s vocals shouting ethereally from a high precipice while the ensemble leap and plunge around her. An ostensible love song, it’s among the most urgent here, many miles above sea level; an aerial view of the immense – but rather monotonous – landscape that Love of Diagram inhabit.
A fondness for the genre and tolerance for emulation notwithstanding, it’s the lack of grit that some might find objectionable about this LP. The lyrics are so aloof and perfunctory – so eager to invite casual interpretation – that the album feels as if birthed in some acclimatised (or genre-cultivating) containment. In the case of a band that emerged as an instrumental outfit, concessions can be made that the vocals are merely an instrument, but to what ends apart from vocalising it’s hard to say. What unfolds here is a casually brilliant collection of texturally moving rock songs with no pretence to save the world, or even change it slightly. Whether that’s important to you or not will determine the album’s worth.
by Shaun Prescott