Ronny Pinkau, the boss of Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten – the lovely German underground label, has released another gem on his short-lived label. The label started off with regional bands from Augsburg (like the fabulous Endlich Blüte or Friedrich Sunlight) after its foundation over 2 years ago, but has now somehow expanded its range with releases of Luxembourg Signal and New York’s Pale Lights. And not only the cover art, which shows a picture from the Eastern German 60s movie „Der Geteilte Himmel“ is pretty excellent. It’s an amazing record we deal with here.
After putting the needle on the record I was first drawn to the conclusion that this might be a new record of Lloyd Cole and parts of it definitely reminded me of his pop masterpiece from 2000 called “The Negatives“. The voice of Pale Light’s singer Phil Sutton especially bears resemblance to the one of Lloyd Cole and also instrumentally the band shares certain similarities. Anyhow, ”The Stars Seemed Brighter“ is a grower of an album and with every listen it becomes clearer that this is much more than just a Lloyd Cole tribute. It’s rougher, more 60s influenced and most notable a completely original record on its own, without needing any references.
The second line of the record in the song ”100 Years“ already recites its title, Phil singing “One hundred years ago / The stars would have seemed much brighter”, a gorgeous song, asking existential questions: ”Where is the romance today? If we are lost, what did we lose? Have we grown so cold and unkind?”
He criticises our current society here, and quite rightly so as what really matters is not on a screen. It also shows that this somehow is not one from the present day, but rather one of the past, when romance was still alive. Just listen to ”You Were My Sweetheart“ in which Sutton sings about his past love ”You Were my Going Home / You Were The Love That I Had / Before All That / Back In The Unknown“. It seems that not only the stars seemed brighter in the past.
The record also deals with issues like your sense of belonging (”Coming Up For Air“) and believes in the good people can bring. Lyrics like ”You Are A Kind Of Yearning For Something Better That Got Left Behind“ (in ”You Are My Sweetheart“ again) or ”Bring The Sunlight Into Our Dark Lives / With Your Beautiful Smiles / And Your Kind Words“ (in ”Jean, Bring The Flowers“) point into that direction.
The Pale Lights’ second LP transports a certain positivity, a sense that in the end we can make it, however miserable a situation may appear. The Pale Lights not only manage to pass this feeling on in their lyrics, but also in their music and how desperately do we need music like that in times like ours? Yeah, right!?