Music

No Context: Love Is All at the Bowery Ballroom

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Love Is All at the Cake Shop last Thursday
photos by Rebecca Smeyne

Love is All
Bowery Ballroom
June 17

Easy to see now how Love is All’s “Make Out Fall Out Make Up” is heroin to indie rock kids, all reigned-in abandon and bespoke signifiers (the “records” in the song’s first couplet: “Records and clothes on the floor/Remind me of the night before”; cigarettes, red wine, smudged lipstick). As it happens, lots of tropes in this circle actually drive me to real despairing frustration. (The way openers and reunited indie stalwarts Versus ask “What is up?,” instead of “What’s up?”; their drummer, whose visibly intense concentration on the band’s unbelievably straightforward drum parts is itself distracting.) Even the faux-naif territory Love is All themselves swerve into– frontwoman Josephine Olausson venturing out on stage like a tiny gremlin wrapped in an orange hoodie, giggling right into the mic–is probably too resigned for me, cute but pandering. To say nothing of Olausson taking about measuring things in “fahrenheits” and inviting the crowd to meet in the park tomorrow in order to eat pickled herring.

So kids that are prone to lose it in that ancient, ’90s outdoor two-footed festival rock-hop/female-bassist-wears-a-bucket-hat sort of way (and who presumably nodded knowingly, approvingly at the review that launched the band, which began “What’s the stat, 99% of all songs are love songs? And what’s the other, 99% of all love songs make me want to slit my face?”; I looked for clarification on this, by the way, and instead found someone comparing the band to In Flames, so I hereby absolve myself for being three years behind the curve here), and who generally like cuddly love songs involving two cuddly and unthreatening people, really love this band. And why not?

Live, their habit of writing 70% of a part, not finishing it, and playing it really fast to cover the whole thing up, reads as sort of endearing. And the songs like “Turn the Radio Off,” where the band does this gorgeous smear from high to low, the guitar up top and wistfully sad, the Essential Logic-type horns in the middle punching guts, the bass pinging around the top melody, and all three singers make it up to their mics and stretch things out even further–those songs are gorgeous in the best possible kind of swelling, anarchic, tight-but-about-to-unravel way. “This is a love song,” Olausson announced halfway through, and then giggled–“What can I say?”