future bible heroes — i’m lonely (and i love it):

“surely you’ve gone too far now,” i told myself. “sure, 69 love songs was great but it wasn’t that long ago that you put down that huge import price for the 3-CD set. and then that gothic archies cd from the trip to new york. and those copies of get lost and charm of the highway strip are still getting lots of play. how much stephin merritt do you really need? and how much is healthy? and, more than anything, he didn’t even produce this record. his lyrics and vocals are pretty fabulous but it’s the elaborate studio arrangements, the ukeleles and clarinets piled on top of goofy electronic raindrops and raspberries, the miked slinkies, the shoegazed-out new-wave concoctions that, if not define his greatness, at least, well, complete the equation. what side are you on, sound or songwriting?”

a surprise then that chris ewen should turn out the star of this ep. the lyrics and vocals do round things out quite nicely but the pristine technopop constructions are what really glisten here, from the dripsody-perfect drops of the title track to the waves crashing behind the “cafe hong kong” to the headphones-compatible blips of the broken-hearted last dance “good thing i don’t have any feelings.” all traces of organic mess are cleaned out of the magnetic fields, leaving polish and shine and, in jane suck’s words, “hearts held together with cellophane tape.”

and merritt does round things out. “i’m lonely (and i love it)” is a refreshing change of attitude, expressed through some of his finest rhymes. everyone’s heard the line about mt everest by now so instead i’ll quote “i’m lonely as narcissus gazing in his mirrored pond/ wearing all the clothes you hate and going back to blond/ staying out all hours in my seedy demimonde/ if you have something to tell me please don’t correspond.” “good thing” is one of the finest new-wave melodies, delivered in his bleakest voice, reminiscent of a crooning michael gira. “my blue hawaii,” an ebm track about the tourist resort island is an acquired taste but not too hard to acquire.

claudia gonson’s vocals are the most dubious element of the record. while she suits some of merritt’s more indie-pop-informed arrangements, her affectless girlish delivery doesn’t stand up as strongly in this colder, harder climate. at best, she presents merritt’s melodies and lyrics without getting too much in the way.

but that production . . .