Sunday, May 23, 2010

Plush - More You Becomes You (1998)

When we last left our pal Liam Hayes, he was busy offering up the recordings that would introduce his surprisingly fully formed aesthetic to the world: two finely crafted Beatlesque pop gems with restrained production that never interfered with the songs' hazy drifting through the clouds quality. Four years later, Hayes released this full length LP that is clearly born of the same mind that came up with "Three-Quarters Blind Eyes" and "Found A Little Baby." He's still that same songsmith whose influences stick conservatively to Bacharach, Nilsson, Wilson, Harrison, and pretty much zero post early '70s musical developments. His edginess level never rises above "baroque" and the tempos of his songs never accelerate to the point where you can't accurately describe them as "dreamy."

However, Hayes approaches his first album not as a collection of more singles but as a cohesive work that gives the listener a reason to experience it as a whole, which makes my response to More You Becomes You a somewhat conflicted one. Aside from a minimal horn arrangement on the penultimate "Instrumental," the record is all solo piano and vocals. If you love this man's melodic sensibility, voice, and number one favorite tempo (ballady), then you are in for a pleasing listening experience that fortunately reflects an awareness of 28 minutes being quite enough for this sort of thing. Because while "this sort of thing" might bring to mind Brian Wilson and like Pet Sounds this record's foundation is built upon slow songs with complex chord progressions that nonetheless always manage to sound awfully fucking lovely and pleasant in a good way, it's much closer to being a "suite" or "song cycle" or some bullshit like that. No one is going to be able to look at the tracklisting after even ten listens and based on the titles, be reminded of even one or two snatches of melody that may have floated into their brains while listening. This shit runs together. And Hayes clearly intends for it all to do just that, considering that many of those titles exist merely to provide track indexes for "songs" that spill into one another like they're Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh or something, whew!!!

As evidenced by his debut single and then this full length album, his aesthetic was firmly established and in place as the foundation for his work at this point in time, yet there is also something about how the four year gap between releases and the fact that Hayes was attempting this type of music during the mid to late '90s with such perfectionism suggest a brand of distant self-awareness that his most obvious influences had practically zero familiarity with. The "single" is just something that he tries on for size, releases only one of, and then moves on from to the next stop, which happens to be 28 minutes of solo piano/vocals compositions. It doesn't move too far beyond just being a good sound to lose yourself in for this particular length of time, so while the record might bring to mind that original demo of "Surf's Up" (scaled down, gorgeous, elaborate in structure, still too fast for Liam Hayes), a song like that is still on a whole other level of melodic enjoyment. What you ultimately get with More You Becomes You is calculated pastiche with a nice vibe, but that's good, too.

Rating: Inoffensive. Or slightly more than that, probably.

Download Link: "More You Becomes You"... the title track from this recording. You'll like it just fine.

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