SONIC REDUCER How to reconcile an ultra-catchy, hooligan-cozy chorus like "These girls fall like dominos!" with the unpretentious, Dennis Cooper-idolizing music lover who dreamed it up — namely Milo Cordell of the rosily buzzing U.K. outfit the Big Pink?
It helps to have a little distance from your unreliable narrator, according to Cordell, son of producer Denny Cordell (the Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Joe Cocker). "I kind of see it, in a way, as kind of dumb and quite crass and slightly throwaway, really. But it's got this bubblegum sugar-coated layer on it, though underneath it's pretty dark," says Cordell matter-of-factly of "Dominos," while tucking into dinner at a Turkish restaurant in his Dalton hood in London. The unpretentious keyboardist's home "twiddling his thumbs," waiting for a replacement for a lost passport while the rest of the band tours Australia.
"The whole subject matter is about the weakness of man, really, and then it's made to be quite jubilant. I think it's throws a lot of people people who think it could be misogynistic, but I think it's quite honest."
At least a few critical people understand: he recently e-mailed Carly Simon to get permission for a version of "Dominos" that the Big Pink put together for NME, which included a portion of "You're So Vain," sung by Lily Allen, in its bleak candy center. Fortunately, Simon got it. "I get a bit freaked out about it sometimes," Cordell confessed. "That people will get it all wrong."
Tossed-off one-night stands, MDMA massives ("Crystal Visions"), late nights spent battling back that fiery orb ("At War With the Sun"), youthful rebellion ("Too Young to Love"), and Dennis Cooper-style entanglements ("Frisk") crop up, judgement or no, on the Big Pink's debut, A Brief History of Love (4AD). The disc's big hooks, up-close ruminations, and ear-teasing sounds, ranging from the 8-bitty to the Congotronic, are defined as poppier and punchier than, say, Crystal Castles, whose early recording Cordell released on his Merok label — a smudgy amalgam of "digital Velvet Underground" mixed with "Timberland and Ministry," as he puts it.
"I think at the moment there's a lot of bands that are bored by every other band in England," he offers, when asked about the clouds of noise and experimentation creeping into U.K. rock. "Every other band trying same licks, all these shit bands referencing the Kinks and Beatles, which is all fair enough, but there's so many of them! You flip through NME, and it's the same band on every page, wearing the same checkered shirt. There's a bunch of people who are bored by that and are creating their own sonic atmospheres. Whether it's the Klaxons or the xx — there's something similar between all of us because perhaps we don't want to sound like the Kooks."
Cordell started the project with his teenage friend and vocalist-guitarist Robbie Furze after tinkering in Furze's studio one day. "We both had come out of relationships and were a bit lost," recalls Cordell, "and I think we kind of found each other and found something to do as well. We filled a void of a lover with each other and making music." Furze also supplied Cordell with one major revelation: "'You don't have to be a musician to make music,' he said. 'You've got an amazing ear.' He knew all the bands I worked with [via Merok, like Titus Andronicus]. We started playing around with noise through pedals, chopping it up and layering sound."
And as for the band name, Cordell explains, "We probably couldn't be further apart from the Band in terms of musical styles, but there's a certain ideology we share with them: knuckling down and having a good time on tour, the sense of grandeur and being slightly phallic-like."