Album Review: Operator Please – Gloves

by Katherine

Flip through the pages of the 2007-2009 indie rock yearbook and it seems like everyone’s making a comeback.

Take chief twats of nu-rave obnoxiousness Klaxons – it only seems like recently we’ve been able to scour the irksome strains of ‘Golden Skans’ from our TV screens and they’re already back with another dosage of Godforsaken electro-nonsense.

Or take The Pipettes. Once purveyors of the kind of witty, polka-dot embossed retro-pop Kate Nash would torch her vintage dress collection for, now reduced to two members and playing watery, futuristic pop like an anaemic Robyn – automatic booty applications not necessary.

But heck, it’s not all bad. Win Butler & Co have come storming back into our hearts with an edgy (read: atrocious) new haircut, and soul-tinged torch-song ‘The Suburbs’ and once-bratty indie-pop collection Foals have sanded down their jagged edges and come up with the diaphanously euphoric ‘This Orient’.

And lately, class of 2008 indie-pop group Operator Please have been showing all the symptoms of releasing a ‘mature’ second album –they’ve ditched the neon leggings and wacky facial expressions in photo shoots, and have appeared donned in black and solemn-faced, like Arcade Fire at their ‘Neon Bible’ epitome of bleakness.

The diagnosis? MGMT-syndrome.

In which the band ditch the tunes in favour of tailing some poe-faced vision of indie credibility.

And in ‘Gloves’ first few tracks, Operator Please’s condition seems critical. Opener ‘Catapult’ should work on paper – it’s all there, the dark, moaning synths, the machine-gun drums, the vaguely suggestive lyrics – but it all seems strangely flat and two-dimensional, a lacklustre pastiche of what electro-pop should be.

The next handful of tracks don’t fare much better – ‘Just Kiss’ involves what sounds like Lady GaGa’s cast-off ‘Just Dance’ synths, and while ‘Logic’s insistent chorus gradually builds to something vaguely beguiling, it’s dreary, imperative verses are too much to weather.

And here, something very odd happens – while the fourth track is usually where most albums run out of steam and begin to relax a little (it’s usually when choruses leave the building), it’s where Operator Please just begin to get started.

‘Oh My’ is a sweet-toothed descendant of The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s seminal ‘Maps’, embodying the same lovelorn wistfulness and longing, but with ‘Maps’ stateliness replaced with a youthful exuberance much needed in this strain of indie portentousness.

And on ‘Back and Forth’, lead singer Amandah recalls Debbie Harry at her most predatory, backed by jangly guitars and pleasingly cheesy synths – however, there’s a gorgeous, vulnerable quality to Amandah’s voice that lends itself to such shameless emoting as the track’s ‘Maybe I’m not done with you!’ refrain perfectly, teetering on the edge of sentimentalism while still maintaining a certain steeliness – a rare talent.

It’s not all sugary-sweet romancing though – ‘Volcanic’ finds Amandah recalling any number of raucous front-women – announcing ‘Everything we know is wrong!’ like a soothsaying Karen O, while ‘Loops’ is a little less explosive -true to it’s name, it struts aimlessly in ever-dizzying circles; it has plenty of sass but no direction – and again, the synths seem to be lifted from GaGa’s ‘Dancing in The Dark’ – I mean, I know she’s a hot topic right now, but it’s decidedly unwise to emulate Lady Gaga unless you have the flame-spewing undergarments to match.

Soon enough, however, Operator Please are back to their erstwhile loveliness on lush closer ‘Like Magic’, the track’s veritable tableau of whirring, euphoric synths and head-rushing guitars perfectly summing up everything that is enjoyable about Operator Please – and in the end, while ‘Gloves’ features a good few bugbears for music journos to sharpen their poison pens over, there’s also a hell of a lot to love – there’s a bright future on the cards for Operator Please, if only they drop the flat disco-aggrandising and focus on capturing the sweet uncertainty of young love.