Have Radiohead’s recent releases, Kid A and Amnesiac, become a little too experimental for one’s musical enjoyment these days? Does one genuinely yearn for a seamless balance between the stylistic gaps of The Bends and OK Computer? The Los Angeles-based sub.bionic have a strong desire to fill this nagging void for all of the listeners who replied yes to the questions above.
Imagine if Travis and Coldplay decided to band together and opted to modestly follow in Radiohead’s musical footsteps by crafting their usual good-natured, passionate pop songs but with newly added pretensions like cryptic lyrics and progressive rock arrangements a la Pink Floyd. The result of this fusion would be sub.bionic’s mysterious, brooding debut, you i lov///.
The album is a collection of ethereal arrangements that initially seem to pose more questions than answers. On first listen, you i lov/// hardly leaves much of an impression, as it seems to flow into one indiscernible, dreamy background. However, with a pair of headphones and a few rounds of attentive listening, sub.bionic’s understated pop sensibilities arise from the blanketing psychedelic haze.
The album opener, the ironically titled “Last Song On Earth,” introduces delicate acoustic guitar strumming coupled with Jeff Buckley-like crooning by lead singer Jimmy Tuckett. The majority of the songs on you i lov///, including “Plum,” “Hush,” and “Phonophobic,” follow this same formula. The tunes then build into melodic choruses with swirling crescendos of ambient textures and electric instrumental interludes that eventually overtake the entire sound mix. This is where you i lov/// becomes a great mystery. Tuckett’s opaque and pretentious lyrics of love, spirituality, and alienation are already difficult to comprehend on their own, but, fortunately, the blending of his gorgeous, emotive delivery into the layered instrumentation creates a grand mystique of wonder that keeps the listener coming back for more in hopes of a clearer understanding.
A couple of songs venture outside of this style of composition. “God In Neutral” is a simple acoustic number with faint, atmospheric sound effects that accompany Tuckett’s soaring falsetto. The airy, laid-back musical approach of the entire record surprisingly subsides with the last song, “Nuclear Bomb Parade.” The album ends on a heavy note with punchy drums, fuzzy bass and guitar, and distorted vocals.
An enigmatic frontman to rival Thom Yorke, Tuckett is clearly at the helm here, but his musical partner, Jimmy Paxson, provides much of the sonic foundation on a number of instruments.
Especially for a debut, sub.bionic’s album demonstrates a shockingly great deal of talent and promise. Despite much of their art-rock posturing and obvious influences by their UK counterparts, sub.bionic’s understated melodies and layered production makes for perfect late night listening. The record’s underlying subtlety may take a handful of spins to get a hold of, but patience will eventually pay off. The thirteen lush and complex arrangements that comprise you i lov/// flow nicely together as one enigmatic, stunning journey.
Archived article by Brett Rosenthal