A couple years back I reviewed Turn Over! Go Under! by Swimwear Department. The band is back with a new full-length entitled The Poolest of the Mall. The band states they get comparisons to B-52s and DEVO but to my ears they are even more aligned with a band like LCD Soundsystem.
The album opens with “We Need a Place” which is a forward moving song that is both dance worthy and nostalgic. It’s a fun song and undeniably infectious. The vocalist sings “We need a place for the kids to go, / So we can take a break / Not a break if we’re worried sick, so / We need a place that’s super safe.” Back when I was a kid in the early ’90s this place was often a public pool so it fits nice with their general theme. There are multiple vocalists and they don’t hold back on the unbridled enthusiasm. Overall, a great opener and indicative of what else you can expect.
Up next is “Swim-up Bar” which is a killer song and paints good times on a summer day. I loved some of the heavy transitions and growling bass work. There’s a cartoonish feel to the song between the lyrics and some of the quirky synth sounds. I wouldn’t say silly but hyperbolic and exaggerated.
Once I got to “Cool Mall Stroll” I definitely felt this album was most relatable to people born in my generation. There was a time when kids would hang out at the mall. We would mostly cause trouble but also hit the arcade. “Belly Flop” has no deep hidden meaning. It’s indeed about a belly flop which hurts if you’ve actually attempted one. The song is fast and probably the most surf rock influenced sounding song so far on the album.
The LCD Soundsystem vibes come full force on “Clothing Optional.” I again loved the bass work on this song. That combined with the synths and exuberant vocals creates a winning combination.
The band kept up the momentum with “Submarine” and “Shop!” and there’s enough variation where the limited theme still feels alive and well. “Malled to Death” might bring back some trauma to those who had to experience going to the mall with their parents. When you were a kid going to the mall with your parents instead of your friends was a different experience. This song felt like the feeling you get when all you want to do is get home.
I loved the groove on “The Lifeguard” which is steady and evolves with airy synths. They close with a subdued song called “MeMall” which forms a heavy cloud of nostalgia. This song felt more like he was reflecting on his past experiences as an adult.
Similar to a show like “Stranger Things” the nostalgia will appeal to a demographic of a certain age. The album doesn't reflect on these times in a melancholy way but takes you back to the experiences themselves. It conjures the memories you may have had and allows you to explore those carefree days you may have long forgotten about. Nostalgia can be overdone in music but this album treats it in a novel way that allows you to relive those moments not just remember then.
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