I gotta be honest, the more I listen to this record, the more I love it. It took me a few spins, but I’ve become enamored of the angular synth lines, European accents, and bouncy fun the duo of Trouble Vs Glue seems to be having. Actually, that fun part is pretty clear – that they’re having it, that is – and that’s what makes Die Trauerweide, German for “the weeping willow,” such an engaging listen, and one I keep coming back to. It’s freakishly fun, and maybe it shouldn’t be – Germans are supposed to be unrelentingly dour, right? And weeping willow? Downer much, am I right? No – let not my (or your) preconceptions fool you. You will want to listen to this and jump around a lot.
Oh wait, Trouble Vs Glue isn’t German. They’re actually Italian – from Rome. So there’s your answer on the “Why isn’t this band more dour?” question. They probably shouldn’t be, according to national proximity, and their locality in the tourist capital of the world, which Rome is. (Imagine emblazoned across the city’s chamber of commerce, “The Tourist Capital of the World,” as a selling point.) (Do Italians as a whole hate me yet? I’m so sorry…) (Here’s how I make up for it:) As the common refrain goes, “Italians do it better,” am I right? Eh, eh? That goes for everything, including synth punk.
So I’m not going to be dumb all day. I have to give quite a bit of credit to Toni Trouble, aka Toni Cutrone, No=Fi’s label head, and Lady Maru, aka Mrs. Glue, for the amount of energy they pour into this release. That energy transcends nationality and makes a dumb ol’ American like me that much more willing and able to tap into the Trouble Vs Glue vibe. So what if it sounds inspired by the artistic and cultural melting pot of 1980s New York City – Die Trauerweide pushes past any potential hang-ups with ease, and nestles into the pleasure centers of your brain, rendering almost all genre signifiers obsolete. Good music does that.
The first side is essentially perfect within the idiom. Trouble and Glue are amazingly appropriate foils, playing effortlessly off one another. The monotonous female vocals counterbalance the spastic male vocals just right, and allow for a wide range of emotion and narrative. Kind of like a reverse Sugarcubes, or something. Or B-52s. The electro punk smash of “Intro” gives way to the gritty new wave bounce of “All the Things That I Want” (think Blur’s “Girls & Boys” on bath salts, and keep your hands over your face in the event of a cannibal craze). It’s a song that I canNOT get out of my head. I’m serious. It’s currently there now, and it is an absolute earworm, spawning earworm babies in my ear canals. I might have to go to the doctor, it’s so catchy. In fact, it’s so catchy it’s … contagious. But in a really good way, not in a virus-y kind of way.
But you can’t live on one insanely catchy single alone, and TVsG mix it up by dropping in vocodered vocals at the end of “My Holy Sake,” obscuring the vocalists. “Rudders in the Air” does this too creating an almost circuslike atmosphere, but in a very claustrophic way – imagine Ringling Bros. setting up in your broom closet, and you’ve got it. So in case you got tired of the dual-vocal attack (I sure wasn’t, but you never know), you get a reprieve. But this isn’t the creepy, backwoods candy-cane house presence of someone like Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Tobacco – TVsG once again have (what’s that word again?) capital F-U-N with the method of delivery. Maybe they’re space robots in disguise. Nah, then they’d be Daft Punk. They’re not Daft Punk.
Side B’s just as wild – the bleepy synth melodies of “Spacegrave,” for example, are awesome, to use a hacky hyperbolic signifier. Screw it. The album ends on the almost unbelievably dance-pop track “Jungle Hall,” and it’s a great way to go out. TVsG inserts robotic electro bridges every so often, of course, just so you don’t forget who they are and what they’ve been up to over the past half hour. And by the end of it, it devolves into interstellar synth bleeps and bloops. It’s so fitting it makes me want to wrap myself in aluminum foil and wear big visor-y throwback sunglasses with a red Cylon light coursing from left to right on them.
Have I referenced enough throwback stuff yet?
OK, I’m done. I had such a good time with Die Trauerweide that I’m going to listen to it again right now. If you can get your hands on it, you should too.
RIYL: Six Finger Satellite, A Frames, Erase Errata, DNA