Tuff Love – Resort (Lost Map Records album, 2016)

  

album // Resort

Tuff Love – a duo of Julie Eisenstein and Suse Bear – hail from Glasgow and have caused a bit of a stir with their three EP releases, garnering praise from your usual dictators of all things hip and cool. The duo’s EPs have now been compiled into one tidy package, which possibly feels a little like a cheat’s way of releasing a debut album, but on the strength of the songs, we’ll forgive them for that.

This is guitar pop first and foremost, delivered with sweetly harmonising vocals and lyrics that carry a lighthearted, diaristic style. There also a delicately wry humour and a penchant for naming tracks after birds and animals. Songs like ‘Flamingo’, ‘Crocodile’ and ‘Slammer’ are curt, immediate and a lot of fun, while also carrying a deft, shoegazery shimmer. But listen closer, and what emerges is a much rougher, fuzzy quality that slices right through the pop exterior. Guitars whine and buzz with grunged-up angst and elegant restraint, recalling axe-wielding forebears like Dinosaur Jr., while Suse Bear’s bass playing on songs like ‘Sebastian’ brings to mind the melodic ominousness of Pixies. And while those vocals might suggest sweetness, there’s also a flat, detached sensibility direct descended from Glasgow’s finest, Jesus And Mary Chain. Melody and harmony ultimately triumph here, but it’s not necessarily a smooth ride to get there.

Though lining up mostly previously-available material for a debut is a bit of a cop-out for such a lauded outfit, ‘Resort’ also illustrates the impressive growth of Eisenstein and Bear across three releases. By the time closing track ‘Carbon’ wraps up, the earlier material feels positively naïve in comparison. These songs were all recorded in Bear’s apartment; we have to hope they stay there in the front room rather than moving to a studio proper and embracing a cleaner, more polished sound.

This non-Mute review was originally intended for publication elsewhere. Thanks to Frankie. 

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence


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