I’m here to make you feel old. It’s now nearly 20 years since the pleasing, laconic, Stones pastiche of ‘Bohemian Like You’ hit the charts, the breakthrough song of these faux-indie Portland slackers. They were ever a little despised, even then, partly for their pop sensibilities and partly because there is indeed something supremely irritating about them. Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s confected, ironic vocals, for a start. Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s name, for a second. Everything was a knowing pastiche, the catchy slabs of krautrock, the electronic noodling, the interminable hippy mantras. But they could write songs, at least — and they were cutely inventive with noise.
Not much has changed — neither the format nor the derision. Why You So Crazy has been slagged off all over the place. But there’s plenty of pleasure to be had here nonetheless. There are four ironic country songs, two of them (‘Highlife’ and ‘Sins Are Forgiven’) with identical tunes. There is some ironic electro stuff, of which ‘Terraform’ and ‘Thee Elegant Bum’ have hooks strong enough to bring you back time and again. Meanwhile, ‘Be Alright’ is the growled, ironic, chugging, indie rocker for which they are best renowned. They drop the irony entirely for the long, spaced-out piano instrumental ‘Ondine’ and you immediately wish they hadn’t. I suppose it’s meant to summon up Debussy on drugs. But it sounds more like someone has disinterred Les Dawson and seated him at a piano. There’s nothing here as gloriously spiteful as ‘Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth’, but you take what you can in these grim days.