Posted by: detourmag on June 27, 2007 at 7:54 am

THE BRUNETTES, Structure & Cosmetics (Sub Pop, 2007)
A certain amount of indie rock quirk is okay, and the Brunettes understand that. On their US debut, the New Zealand boy-girl team of Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield layer ample playfulness, pop sensibility, and second-wave rock ‘n’ roll, but never make anything too frenetic or dizzying. Instead, Bree, Mansfield, and their collaborators spin curious tales of speakers in love, and proudly proclaims their soft spot for cliche pet-names.

The coed vocals play off of one another to perfection-hers are buoyantly sweet; his are deep and gravelly- and always hint at an attraction beneath the musical cover. There’s some truth to the connection-Bree and Mansfield did date for a brief time-and that makes it all the more tantalizing. But to keep from sounding like a rabid tabloid, relationship dynamics aren’t the only reason The Brunettes are worth your time. (And really, after the mind games of Jack and Meg White, what ones are?)

Mostly, Bree and Mansfield use these eight tracks to toy with the prevailing worldview. On “Credit Card Mail Order,” Bree sings “Girl you need love” without the sleaze and smarm of that creepy guy at the bar. Instead, his observation sounds more like a statement of fact than a come-on, a scathing, almost underhanded commentary that contentment (gasp!) can’t be bought in a box. “B.A.B.Y.” lets loose with ample rock ‘n’ roll playtime antics that are embellished in “Stereo (Mono Mono),” but the tide turns with “Her Hairagami Set,” a building beauty and definite highlight. The rest of Structure meanders a bit into Shins territory, and having been tourmates with those guys before — not to mention the label connection — that’s not a stretch. but the inclusion of lyrics like “If You were an Alien/I’d call you my Martian man,” sung ever-so-sweetly by Mansfield keeps the line of distinction firmly drawn. This one will have you sha, la, la la la-ing all the way home.

– Natalie B. David


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