There was a marked difference between the first and second time I heard the Big Pink’s “Dominos,” the lead single off their 2009 debut, A Brief History of Love. The former was during a late-night iTunes browsing session, when the London duo’s electro-pop anthem sounded almost majestic—brash, drunken, and buzzing with a monstrous, low-end synth. The second time was while watching a rather formulaic car commercial some months later, and the track suddenly sounded painfully ordinary as fodder for a handful of rain-slicked, slow-mo shots. “Dominos” hadn’t aged well, its once-ecstatic bombast now more of a bulky annoyance than the result of any kind of charismatic energy.
Regardless, the track’s formula is more or less used as a sweeping template for the Big Pink’s sophomore effort, Future This, and, predictably, the album suffers the same fate as its forebear: grandly designed for stadium sing-alongs, but barely able to sustain the kind of dynamic melodies needed to accomplish such a feat.
Such failure is a missed opportunity, as Future This largely tampers the more obnoxious moments of swagger found on A Brief History of Love in favor of a far more pensive brand of electronic Britpop. The Big Pink is no longer Oasis with keyboards, as opening track “Stay Gold” so ably demonstrates. “If you lead, I will follow,” sings vocalist Robbie Furze in an English schoolboy howl thick with reverence. Here, the misogynist braggart of “Dominos” is notably absent, and that shift in mood extends to album highlights “Rubbernecking” and “The Palace (So Cool)” too.
The latter is the Big Pink’s most accomplished track to date, a kind of self-skewering meditation on the nature of delusion that swells with wave upon wave of bristly, effervescent synths. “It’s the kind of make-believe that happens when you’re with someone, for better or for worse,” keyboardist Milo Cordell recently told Spin. “It can help build a bond with someone, but it can also really isolate you from everyone else.”
Unfortunately, the Big Pink’s more serious turn, while initially appealing, eventually proves to be Future This‘s undoing. Despite being built from breakbeats, club sounds, and all manner of hip-hop flourishes, the album is a dour, sluggish exercise, never quite striking an effective balance between the explosive fun of A Brief History of Love and the weighty power of “The Palace (So Cool).” The fumbling effort to harmonize their irreverence and earnestness leaves the Big Pink ultimately stranded, and the result is a hook-deficient album that wears on the ears after only a few listens.