While the NBOT ('No Birds On Tour') motto may have cut swathes through several decades of rock and roll excess from the days of Jerry Lee Lewis to the overbearing laddisms of Oasis and their ilk, 2011 seems hellbent on setting a new trend. Although not a totally alien concept, the number of musical couples (married or otherwise) that have emerged this past year or so would probably make Nikki Sixx want to overdose again for real this time. Nevertheless, notable releases from the likes of Moon Duo, Tennis, Summer Camp and Big Deal can only suggest that the key to a half-decent record may lie in a healthy domestic relationship.
Bearing that in mind, it seems lie an apt moment to introduce Love Inks, a three-piece from Austin, Texas centered around the husband and wife duo Sherry LeBlanc and Kevin Dehan. Both veterans of the local music scene, having played both together and separately in other bands, LeBlanc's unassumingly rich vocal coupled with Dehan's precisely deft basslines and guitarist Adam Linnell's scratchy interludes combine gracefully to make E.S.P. something of an understated gem.
Sure, comparisons with the likes of Chairlift and The xx will probably hound them from now until kingdom come, but reference points aside, E.S.P. stands up as a distinctive, if occasionally samey body of work in its own right.
Recorded at each other's homes using an old fashioned eight-track tape machine, E.S.P. reeks with a purity which serves their delicate lovelorn musings well. The opening 'Wave Goodbye' fuses elegant chamber pop with the lo-fi sensibilities of say Wild Nothing or Beach Fossils, which probably explains why cool Italian label Hell, Yes! (Dum Dum Girls, Crocodiles, EMA, Tamaryn) picked Love Inks up while everyone else was dithering around waiting for the chillwave production line to deliver.
LeBlanc's ode to a troublesome evening for her beau 'Blackeye' sums up E.S.P. to perfection, combining a simplistic yet irresistible groove with genuinely heartfelt words ("Did It happen last night? Tell me it was from a fight?"). Linnell's chiming guitar, although never really a focal point, undoubtedly elevates 'Skeleton Key' to its status as one of the standout tracks here, blending subtly with LeBlanc's semi-conscious coos. Similarly 'Can't Be Wrong' takes a left turn down Shoegaze Avenue before coarsing gently along Electronica Drive, LeBlanc performing her most incisive Siouxsie Sioux inspired performance yet.
"All that love but nothing I can do about it" she sighs woefully on 'Down And Out', while their take on David Essex's smash hit from 1973 'Rock On' twists the original inside out and back to front before giving it a lo-fi Casio flavoured makeover that sounds like an even more stripped down version of The Kills only less contrived or annoying.
At times E.S.P. does scream out for a little more variety, and the four-minute sombre fest that is 'In My Dreams' perhaps stretches the nerve limits a tad too far, but on the whole this is a solid debut worthy of anyone's time and money. Just don't mention the word 'divorce'... woah, too late.
7Dom Gourlay's Score