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A certain type of person would write off the majority of PLUG as 'arty bollocks'. He - and it usually is a he - haunts the urinals of indie music venues across the country, boring unfortunates shitless with half-baked opinions on bands that seem pretty alright, taverymuch. He likes Reverend and the Makers, yet somehow oozes pretension, and when it comes to an album such as PLUG, he’s insufferably impatient. But can he be blamed? Some records are so laced in irony that one begins to lose sight of what’s true, and this is in danger of being one of them.
While PLUG aren’t the types to pretend Metal Machine Music is their favourite Lou Reed album, I imagine they own it on vinyl. The London duo - comprising the excellently named Sian Dorrer and Georgie Nettle - attempt to channel Britain’s current social climate through diabolical synths and bloodless drum sounds. The result is the musical equivalent of a crisp, black-and-white, niche cinema piece: unique and intriguing, yet often frustratingly contrary.
It’s a shame, because when the pair aren’t lusting after blokes in a ‘Sexy Coma’ (surely the most nauseating song title of the year) PLUG tears into highly entertaining social-commentary; fueled by a frantic rap-hyperactivity, Dorrer’s authoritative rants radiate a brash, cheeky personality. This playful side to the duo deals lightly with heavy issues, as best evidenced on the outstanding ‘Don’t Forget It’ - a song set in recession-era London. The personally affronted narrator finds herself forced to choose between nights out and - um - food. She doesn’t need the answers to know who she blames: “You’ve heard it in the news and you’ve read it in the papers,” Dorrer splutters, “the whole banking system are a bunch of piss-takers!”.
It’s not until PLUG lapse into po-faces that chinks begin to appear in their armour. ‘Attractive’ is by far the record’s longest track, at seven minutes, and it suffers for it. The verse’s confused use of tense (“It is only nine years ago/Since I fell in your web...”) reflects the turbulence of a romance viewed through hindsight, as out-of-step memories are slowly pieced together. It’s a nice idea, but in reality I found myself losing interest somewhere in-between their “initial shining admiration fading to love’s liquidation” and “Newton’s Law of Gravitation” failing to “sink love’s levitation”. If you’re wondering why, it’s one of those rare occasions where I can sympathise with the 'arty bollocks' bloke from the first paragraph. Yeah, yeah, I know.
Appropriately, PLUG’s down-to-earth elements are summarised with a brief, 80 second flourish. ‘Real Girl’ is about girls trying to be ‘girly’ for reasons they don’t quite understand. Its comical, pathos-filled narrator tries her hardest to be traditional, synchronising her lipstick with the colour of her car etc. - all the usual stuff - but at the same time, she’s terribly afraid of becoming an “obedient creep” like her mother.
The song’s trite refrain of “Your femininity is just what you make it/If you’ve got a bad habit then you’ve gotta break it”, betrays a slight, unintentional condescension, which can occasionally be found lurking in PLUG’s darkest corners. But perhaps the indie stars du jour could use a little arrogance - save us chin-stroking dullards from lives of casual indifference. Regardless, as striking a self-portrait as PLUG have painted here, there’s not quite enough substance to counterbalance their icy, minimal style. Too many “colours I would like to paint you in”, too many “paintings I would like to put you in”; we don’t see enough of the effortlessly charming candour set aside for Moaning About The Recession. They really ought to do a bit more Moaning About The Recession.