Published on February 4th, 2012 | by Danger0
Pinebocks – Flee/My Unfunny Valentine
Lo-fi pop can be a tricky balancing act. In the past it was exclusively employed by those who had no access to more sophisticated means of production. Since the full takeover of digital recording, any asshole with a Macbook and a couple hundred dollars worth of microphones can make fairly polished music. When a contemporary artists comes out with a unsophisticated, static filled sound, it almost always happens as a result of a decision to impart a murky, abstruse quality to the music. Maybe they’ve spent a great deal of time listening to lo-fi artists of the past or maybe they’re just not completely confident in the songs. It often remains and intentional choice. Because of that intentionality, most lo-fi acts have to toe a pretty strict line of producing numerous pop hooks that are only slightly obscured by the murk of their style. If they’re able to get that ratio right, it’s delightful. If they fail, it becomes less so.
Here’s the fun part of this review: Pinebocks is the music project of a former (I think) Illinois and now Texas resident named Corey Clifford. I grabbed it out of a pretty big file of music submissions that Sock Monkey Sound writers share on Google Docs. Pages and pages of people that were like, Hi. Wanna review my music? and then were (usually) met with a blanket of crushing silence because many of the staff members sometimes forgot that it exists or started watching Sherlock and didn’t for a while. I guess I’m only speaking for myself with that last part.
I went digging through it a while back and found the following note:
Hi, my name is Cory Clifford and I have a musical project entitled Pinebocks. To describe my music, I’d say it’s a combination of Orange Juice and The Clean, and it could easily fit into NME’s C86 compilation.
I like all of those signifiers so I decided to have a listen.
Let’s first examine the claims made in Clifford’s self designation. C86 this is definitely not. The music is far to sparse and haunting to be confused for the relatively full and sunny sounds of early Pastels or Primal Scream. This is much more rough shod music. The guitar sounds like Clifford found it in an abandoned basement and decided to record there instead of taking it home. There is a constant hiss and digital reverb makes it all bouncy and tinny. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because it fits the actual songwriting and performances to a tee. The Orange Juice comparison does hold up well as there is an obvious Edwyn Collins influence on Clifford’s demented croon. It’s a cartoonishly sinister vocal style that is adds a sense of ironic comedy. That is very helpful because these songs are fucking dark. Flee, finds a man having abandoned his roots and absconded south, all the while regretting his choices. He sings,
I’ve never felt so bad about myself as I do now. I’m chronically cursed with a furl in my brow.
and there is a real fun sense of hyperbolic jokiness.
The sinister tone returns in the second song, My Unfunny Valentine, a dirgey ode to a dysfunctional romantic connection. Clifford goes at it like a Lynchian lounge act. The song ends with the repeated figure, My unfunny valentine, you make life so asinine. Then I start laughing because I’m kind of fucked up.
Pinebocks are the dark side of Twee. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll probably enjoy Flee/My Unfunny Valentine. Make sure to check out the Bandcamp page for other singles and EPs, or like them on Facebook if that is more your style.