The Language of Flowers – Songs About You

The Language of Flowers
Songs About You

Belfast’s the Language of Flowers are intent on returning the listener to the days of guileless, jangly pop circa mid-80s Sarah Records with wispy female vocals singing modest songs of everyday loves and losses. For about half of Songs About You the band succeeds only at tweaking those memories (if you have them) and little more. Much more interesting, though, are the other four or five numbers that go beyond just mimicking those innocent maneuvers and offering songs worth remembering for their own charm and effervescence, not just their similarity to bands that provided the soundtrack to your first foray under a bespectacled girls gingham skirt.

I only wish bands like the Field Mice or Heavenly were there for my first such adventure (I think it was Foghat instead), but the half of Songs About You that rises above mere okay-ness will suffice for any future attempt to score. We can begin with the cute “Botanic Gardens,” a sprightly major-key song of gentle courtship conducted as only an English Lit student from the UK would. Those lighter-than-air girlie vocals were always an acquired taste, and they remain so, but the slight turnaround of the chorus is sweet and shy and works just fine.

Even better is the title song’s combination of chiming chorus and bass-driven verse, sung by the delightfully deadpan bassist Colm McCrory. And if Tara Simpson’s slight wisp of a voice evokes a timid Dolores O’Riordan (of the Cranberries) on “Leaving,” you’d be a cur to complain once the songs frostiness melts into a lovely, cherubic chorus.

That darker “Tara Mascara” (New Zealand faves Look Blue Go Purple are summoned here, to great effect) really does stand head and shoulders above the rest of the disc. As nice as the majority of this debut is, it lacks consistent spark in the songwriting department, resulting in pleasant but forgettable tunes like “Summer’s Been and Gone” that hang around like an unobjectionable stranger: nice to meet but without any need to exchange phone numbers.

The band does stretch its sound a bit on a couple of songs but to no great effect. A sharper honing of the members’ writing could result in an excellent record if the highlights of Songs About You are any indication, but for now the jury is decidedly out. Still, you have to believe there’s more magic to uncover in those ringing guitars and bookishly romantic themes, and the Language of Flowers has at least stumbled on a bit of it. Only time will tell what else these folks have up their skirts.