Once again in the never ending battle of wits between reviewer and GBV albums, yet another surfaces with the soul crushing intent of making this reviewer cry. It's a battle worth taking on though as the old adage always rings true with this band and yes, you are bound to like something soon enough.
What is a real surprise is that this is the best of the new era so far. Not that any of the recent albums have been shabby and even Pollard's solo album stood out amongst the crowd. This one seems to have a more fluid approach though and works well as an album rather than a disparate bunch of songs thrown together.
This may be in part to the recording being done in an actual studio this time although strangely, for this fact, it sounds much more lo-fi /indie/whatever you want to call it. There is a rawness and keen-ness about it that brings to mind early 80's college rock classic and as such elevates this album from the rest.
As always you get a wide variety of songs, and yes, there are a lot of songs. There seems to be a more distinct lean to a looser feel with the re-instatement of Kevin March on drums bringing some old magic back. It's a bit of a glam stomper in parts and there are very little excursions into ponderous experimentation. This is the sound of a band starting out, or just getting going...yes, a strange dichotomy but it works an absolute treat.
So, the highlights? 'Authoritarian Zoo' is a great place to start for your glam stompers followed by 'Hat of Flames' later on in the album. The slow plod of 'Fast Crawl' brings a more sludgier side to GBV as proven on 'These Dooms' later on. There are nods of the head to REM on 'Bad Love Is Easy To Do' and David Bowie surfaces in spirit on 'Cream of Lung'.
Best of all is the album centrepiece 'All American Boy' which manages to encompass an entire GBV career in one song. Equal parts West Coast rock with The Beatles/Beach Boys thrown in, it's an endearing and beautiful song which serves as a summation of the whole album. As is the way with GBV it sounds like nothing else on the rest of the album but that's not the point.
You should get this album. It's possibly one of the best GBV have done although making that judgement surely must be one of the more difficult choices you woud have to make. There is very little wrong with it and it runs smoothly throughout which is more than can be said for some more recent albums. GBV have bever made a bad album and probably never will, Cool Planet serves as a reminder that they may falter now and again but as the old adage goes....one you like better will come along soon. Cool Planet indeed!