AIR: POCKET SYMPHONY (2007)
1) Space Maker; 2) Once Upon A Time; 3) One Hell Of A Party; 4) Napalm Love; 5) Mayfair Song; 6) Left Bank; 7) Photograph; 8) Mer Du Japon; 9) Lost Message; 10) Somewhere Between Waking And Sleeping; 11) Redhead Girl; 12) Night Sight.
AIR never really made two albums that sound the same; but they certainly made quite a few albums that sound like they sound the same. Pocket Symphony, in particular, is anything but a series of remakes of Talkie Walkie songs, yet I have a very poor idea of how to write about it. It does not exactly help that, no matter how many times I listen to this record, I rest enthralled by its icy beauty, yet each time that it is over, I cannot remember a single doggone tune.
Pocket Symphony is very AIR-y, even for AIR. Like a prima ballerina that, while dancing, mostly floats above the ground, taking your breath away, it eventually reaches a stage when you start secretly wishing for her/it to plummet to the ground, for once, for a change. Zephyresque synthesizers, heavenly chimes, dreamful vocals, swooshing asteroid percussion, Japanese folk instruments out of some faraway Mizoguchi movie — my feet are soaking wet for spending too much time walking in the clouds. Don't get me wrong: these are songs, with melodies and even musical development, real small little parts that truly cling together in, I guess, some sort of 'symphony' — but they're all wrapped up in such dense layers of musical cotton candy that, in the end, it hardly matters whether there is any sort of development or not.
Not even the fabulous guest stars inflict any significant deviations. Jarvis Cocker of Pulp contributes lyrics and vocals to 'One Hell Of A Party', sounding more like a highly drunk, deeply depressed Mark Knopfler than Jarvis Cocker; and Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy contributes lyrics and vocals to 'Somewhere Between Waking And Sleeping', sounding more like a deeply drunk, highly depressed Nick Drake than Neil Hannon. Both songs are pretty and elegant, but neither one has managed to stay with me the way 'Le Voyage De Penelope' or 'Playground Love' still does. Oh well, maybe 10,000 more listens will do the trick — it's high time I changed my ringtone anyway.
Giving this kind of record a "thumbs down" assessment will, however, not do, because within its own limits, it's admirable. Of course, admitting that it's admirable imminently leads to admitting that, for instance, Alan Parsons, whose music frequently sounds the same way, is also admirable, and to admit, in the XXIst century, that Alan Parsons is "admirable" immediately brands one as a soul hopelessly lost in irreality. But as a soul hopelessly lost in irreality, and speaking out to other souls hopelessly lost in irreality, I am fond of Pocket Symphony, somewhere deep down inside that is, and when the new ringtones work, my thumbs up will be fully validated.