London indie pop outfit The History of Apple Pie set out to follow last year’s Out of View with a bolder, more focused record when they pulled producer Jerome Watson onboard again. It’s clear they’re eager to ruminate on Loveless and 13, but elementary school crushes on My Bloody Valentine and Blur don’t give them the foresight to create their own version. Feel Something isn’t a change in direction. It’s a straightforward plea for ingenuity to strike.
When the opening riff of “Come Undone” starts, ‘90s shoegaze blows forward with the force of several stacked amps — until it’s apparent it’s going nowhere. Feel Something is a whole-hearted attempt to craft a new brand of Sonic Youth rock in a comforting CMJ style. Every prediction is answered. The brimming ‘90s power pop of “Ordinary Boy” sounds like a failed Hoku track for Legally Blonde, and psych pop single “Tame” is faux-rowdy with generic riffs. There’s little wrong with the record when you’re mid-song. It’s as soon as the next track begins to play that the difficulty of recalling what came before it is obvious.
Granted, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new here. The addition of keyboards is prominent, driving “Keep Wondering” and “Don’t You Wanna Be Mine?” with the twisted whirr of Black Moth Super Rainbow. Guitarists Jerome Watson and Aslam Ghauri wander idly, using their front row spot to squeal like the Pixies as drum fills splice up “Snowball” and “Puzzles”. Bassist Joanna Curwood makes her debut with the band, teaming up with drummer James Thomas to toss a few bones forward. But even when combined, the three are never enough to distract from Steph Min’s flat, wispy vocals.
The History of Apple Pie’s catchy melodies finally overpower their bashful, playground take of shoegaze greats on “Jamais Vu”. Buzzing with grace, it uses their energy efficiently, whittling it down to a sharp, conscious, uptempo number that’s just as much a nod to The Cardigans as it is to Kevin Shields.
Feel Something has the ingredients to make it a front-runner for end of the year lists (try keeping score of the saccharine hooks), but the band’s incredible ability to keep it from ever rising above mediocre manages to cut it down far short of that goal. Originality isn’t easy to find. Thankfully for them, rock can still be a fun daytime dessert. The problem is The History of Apple Pie managed to fork over 10 songs of generic, sugared pop that’s almost entirely forgettable by the time dinner rolls around.
Essential Tracks: “Jamais Vu”, “Don’t You Wanna Be Mine?”