Giving Up are made of three musicians who are sad about stuff, but want to be happy – the liner notes inform me that this album is about “being bummed on the social climate and current state of affairs but also being hopefull and positive about it changing, and not just like general worldly peace but also local and intra’peace too.” Oof – high aspirations for any record, let alone a nine-song slab of standard indie-rock/pop along the lines of BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE. They’re sad, but it sounds like the only weapon they’ve got against it is sheer, blind optimism and ‘no-bad-vibes’ mentalities. Admittedly, it’s a little saccharine – not my cup of tea to begin with, but I’m not one to shoot something down out of hand. I guess, as a bitter jaded cynic, I admire the heart-on-sleeve idealism a little, and I’d bet all the members are really, really, really nice people…but I just can’t get into this record.
“Peace Sign/Frown Face” features songs based on guitar and drum, but led by male/female dual vocals, which is probably the biggest obstacle here for me. The female vox are nice enough, but the male have a way of really getting on my nerves – strained, bleating, off-key – I don’t expect a Freddie Mercury performance from everyone, but when the vocals are this up-front and central to an album (almost to the point of shutting out the music), it gets trying. That being said, there are some melodies here, even if they’re presented in a slightly wonky way. Giving Up are one of those bands that tend to write lyrics in complete and grammatically correct sentences, which makes for good lyrics, but for some strange melodies that meander and drift all over the scale – there’s memorable lines here in the lyrics, but good luck humming them in the shower. Tracks like “Blue/Green/Grey” and “Glue, Green Glitter” manage to strike a balance between the wordy lyrics and walkabout melodies, and it’s almost a little catchy. The lyrics alternately work and fail, with equal spectacularity. For every clever line, a song like “Ghosts” is quickly derailed by a spiel about 9/11 being an inside job, and the assassination of the Chilean president in 1973…where’d that come from?
The music has a ramshackle, adorably sloppy sound, but the album itself is gorgeous – sky blue vinyl, a huge hand-painted poster with a nice message from the band – one of the best packaging jobs I’ve seen in a while. I’m sure that a lot of people would really dig this record – I’m just not one of them.
LISTEN/BUY: Sophomore Lounge Records