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First impressions: The Boy Least Likely To – The Great Perhaps

27/04/2013

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cover_tbllt_tgpI’ve always had to resist the urge to describe The Boy Least Likely To as something of a novelty band. There’s nothing malicious behind the thought, but the incredibly adorable sound filled with toy pianos, xylophones, happy-go-lucky guitar strums and cartoon keyboards, as well as the consistent lyrical angle of looking at the cold world and its emotional turmoils through the eyes of a child (or a child in an adult’s body) who’s too smart for his own well-being , has always been a double-edged sword. It’s their very own sound and the reason they appealed to me in the first place, yet one which has from the very beginning sounded like something that simply wouldn’t be able to stand repeated appearances. You can easily see it’s the case just by looking at their past discography – the second album, Law of the Playground, is an enjoyable one but one which rarely gets a play over the debut The Best Party Ever, simply because back then the sound was still fresh and it just didn’t have the same effect on the second-go-round. There’s always been a fear haunting at the back of my head that the duo wouldn’t be able to get past that obstacle and one day the novelty would run out, that the same old trick would be run to the ground and there’d be no hook strong enough to salvage the music.

Perhaps The Boy Least Likely To have realised this themselves and decided that a change is in order before they’d get creatively trapped by their own creation. The Great Perhaps, arriving a good four years after Law of the Playground (there was a Christmas album in the middle though), carries the sound of the eternal children growing up – or at least, changing and expanding their repertoire. The music is still sugar-sweet, ridiculously cute and very twee, but the toy pianos and other quirky instruments are gone, replaced by drum machines and synthesizers atop the traditional guitars and such.  Similarly, while the lyrics still carry their fair share of bittersweetness underneath all the bouncy music, they’re not chained to one point of view anymore. It’s all still recognisably Boy Least Likely To in all its colourful adorability, but with a new wind under their wings. Shaking things up has rejuvenated the duo and their music, and shaking away the previous self-imposed stylistic constraints has had the effect of emphasising that we are dealing with a really capable songwriter team.

At its best, The Great Perhaps is a fantastic showcase of The Boy Least Likely To’s skills with handling melodies, details and positively earwormy musical tidbits. This is especially true with the album’s first two singles, “I Keep Falling in Love with You Again” and “Climbing Out of Love” which are genuinely phenomenal pop hard-hitters with their larger-than-life choruses, brilliant production and a strikingly good vocal performance from Jof Owen. They’re great examples of how brand new the band sound again, breathing new life into their music and taking it to a whole new level. Similar sort of refreshening is present throughout: the elegance of “Michael Collins” which is a side the band’s not shown before during their slower moments, the precision-strike backing vocals on “Taking Windmills for Giants” and “Thank You for Being My Friend” and the duet structure of the diabetically sweet “It Could’ve Been Me” (featuring Gwenno of The Pipettes fame) being particularly fetching examples. Sadly though, at its worst The Great Perhaps stumbles clumsily in a way that spoils the flow and distracts you from how good the rest of it feels. While not numerous, there are a couple of points like that and the autopilot ballad “Lonely Alone” and the irritatingly airheaded “Even Jesus Couldn’t Mend My Broken Heart” are on the way of the album being a thoroughly entertaining listen from start to finish.

It is nonetheless a far more positive experience than it could ever get close to negative. The Great Perhaps isn’t a flawless album, or even a particularly brilliant one despite its incredibly high peaks, but it’s a rather good album that not only makes you want to press repeat after it’s finished but which also removes any fear one might have had towards The Boy Least Likely To’s future. Bands with a very, very particular style always risk stagnating if they’re not experts at what they do, but the trick The Boy Least Likely To perform here is to simply loosen the borders a little rather than remove them altogether. It’s all still super cute, incredibly adorable and wonderfully perky (regardless of the lyrical material, although that said this is lyrically their most optimistic and loveydovey to date out of the three main albums), and this time it sounds all fresh again. It feels like they’re on the beginning of their journey once again and it’s all incredibly exciting – something you can actually feel resonating from the music. The Boy Least Likely To being likened to a novelty band? Not anymore.


I Keep Falling in Love with You Again

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