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  On High  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Brett Spaceman  

Tired? Jaded? Falling blood-sugar levels in need of a boost? If this record were an energy drink, I have little doubt it could drag somebody out of a diabetic coma. When Lush wrote Sweetness and Light at the height of shoegazing, I wonder if they had anticipated Soundpool, the latest act to breath life into a fondly missed genre? On Soundpool's On High, the band have packaged many of the tracks that have helped them become an underground cult favourite among indie club-goers in and around New York. Cosmic, phased guitars combine with breathy, angelic vocals and sequenced programming. Yet beneath the swirl of effects beats a heart of pure pop. Soundpool are not the reverberated rock of, say Serena-Maneesh. Instead theirs is a wistful, almost childlike, pop attitude at play.

The opening title track reveals their hand. A whirl of sound before driving drums and chiming bass hurl us into My Bloody Valentine Loveless era. This must sound fantastic in the clubs as it is perfectly suited to a big system and larger audiences. My initial reaction to next track, millions&billions&trillions was skeptical, to say the least. The chorus is too saccharine for my palette. And yet the cheery music belies a welcome socio-economical skepticism revealed by lyrics I'd been too hasty to label lightweight.

Then there's a further twist. Just when you think you're encamped in 1992, reprising the likes of Lush and Swallow, Soundpool suddenly throw you a curve ball with the psychedelic drenched, one-minute coda that is Be. Pure phase(d)! Following this, we're transported to a time far closer to our own with music unmistakably influenced by the dual axis of Stereolab (Span the Universe) and Ladytron (Eurostar). Kim Field's voice is interesting too. In the space of two tracks she manages to sound reminiscent of both Liz Frazer (Moonglow) and Kylie Minogue (on the thrilling Polyphony). All giddy, rarified stuff then, but its strength could also be its weakness. How does the nursery rhyme go? – "Sugar and spice, and all things nice." That's this album exactly! Except…without the spice. It really IS sweetness and light. No pain, no sex, and no death here. It's so innocent, I keep expecting jelly and ice cream.

So it depends what you crave. If you have a sweet tooth and an appetite, look no further. On High may just be the perfect record for a summer drive with the roof down, or getting ready to go out. Too, if you have to watch those calories, don't worry, the content is a little lite. The album is one of form rather than substance, but then did we really need another tormented songwriter? This is for escape. This is for leaving worries and work behind and having a great time. As a musical happy hour, it works perfectly. Fizzy, coloured drinks, bubbles up our nose, sweets and candyfloss until we're sick. It's been a long time since we did this so come join the party. We'll have salad tomorrow. For now, dive into Soundpool.

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