They may not be blessed with the most Google-friendly of names but US act Should have earned their place at the shoegaze/dream pop top table over two decades. Their last album, 2011’s ‘Like A Fire Without Sound’, may have been a little too sensitive and pleasant at times but the new long player ‘The Great Pretend’ arguably provides the fire with extra sound, as there are noticeable signs of aggression here which proves band members Marc Ostermeier and Tanya Maus are more powerful forces than ever.
Opener ‘Don’t Send Me Your Regrets’ is backed by satisfyingly robust rhythms. Then comes ‘Loveless Devotion’; a glorious mesh of throbbing bass and bruising guitars countered by the soft but still clear vocals from Ostermeier. There’s pounding drums adding extra muscle to ‘Mistakes Are Mine’ and cheery lead single ‘Down A Notch’ is like hearing The Field Mice team up with New Order.
Continuing the complexity, ‘Everybody Knows’ begins a sequence of the most shoegaze heavy tracks on the record but the skill with both this song and the excellent (and far too brief) ‘Dalliance’ are the relentless intensity and insistent melodies they convey. They even merit unexpected comparisons to The Workhouse on the downtempo guitars and vocals to ‘Amends’. That said, it’s nice to be able to take a pause for breath occassionally so ‘In Monotone’ and the lullaby-like finale ‘Don’t Get To Know Me’ oblige by reverting to the default shy setting of Should and it’s always a pleasure to hear Ostermeier team up with Maus on harmonies again.
Naturally, it would have been easier to continue the gentler approach of their last album but here Ostermeier usually set their controls to “loud”, driving the songs home without ever losing their naturally melodic core. All told, ‘The Great Pretend’ is a triumphant return.
The Field Mice, Lorna