Viva Stereo – Optimism is Not a Curse

Viva Stereo
Optimism is Not a Curse

Optimism is Not a Curse is a record that does a number of things fairly well, while doing none of them well enough. Although it’s a decently entertaining mélange of Radiohead melancholy, dance-punk sis-boom-bah and been-there-heard-that indie guitar and synth filigree with a flair for cinematic production flourishes, it ends up wandering around somewhere in that vast, vast desert where okay records go to die.

These Glaswegians make a good stab at things, leaning on their post-rock influences throughout ample, moody numbers like “Wake,” similar to their countrymen Mogwai (with whom they share a producer). Guitars jangle, keyboards swell and recede, vocals emote with millennial ennui in an overly familiar, state-of-the-art display that too infrequently distinguishes itself as being anything special. It may make a fine document of what music circa 2005 sounded like for future anthropologists to dig up, but it’s likely to get lost in their CD pile as well.

Too many songs like “Seeping Wounds” take their sweet time getting anywhere, and though the journey is pleasant and filled with titillating sonic detail, it is also unilluminating. Viva Stereo’s members may have also had the old Stereolab chestnut “Contact” running through their heads during the recording of this album, as its simple but hypnotic bass line crops up twice on the record (“Cabin Fever” and “Quiescence”).

The band hits on something bigger and better on “Honesty,” a grand, head-hanging lament with weeping strings and a cavernous chorus; quality sadcore all the way. Doves have been along these roads before and have done it better, but this at least sticks with you after the tune ends, an effect that eludes most of the rest of Optimism is Not a Curse. Only the ghostly, almost discordant vocals of “Tourniquet” unsettle with any similarity.

The mood that a band like Viva Stereo relies to carry its hook-shy tunes can be a downer when it isn’t used for any purpose greater than just setting a general tone. Imagining these songs stripped of their studio finery leaves an impression of a largely drab set of music too reliant on various crutches to give it the impact it desires. Obviously these folks are aiming for something bigger than that with this debut, but it’ll have to wait for another day.