Modernist writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner touched primarily on the darker aspects of American life: war, deceit, and incest. Post-modernism hasn’t been all buttercups and rainbows either, with writers like David Foster Wallace discussing themes of rape, inequality, and the frustration with the mundane.
So where does all this fit in an album review? Well, Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit might be a synth, a century, and a few wars away from being Hemingway, but the frustration, angst, and earnestness on the band’s sophomore album might just fit the same literary mold, even if the music is deceptively peppy.
On Gossamer‘s first track, the notions of futility within the daily grind of life sound like they could be Willy Loman’s theme song. In “Take a Walk,” when selling flowers doesn’t keep a family together, or a businessman’s partner blows all their money, there’s nothing to do but take a walk as a disgruntled flaneur floundering in the modern world.
Passion Pit’s signature electropop composition style, glosses over the grief and futility of the lyrics, like a sheer gossamer layer inadequately masks the surface underneath it.
“Carried Away” typifies what this album succeeds in doing. The funky, peppy, 80s beat keeps the head bobbing. But underneath inorganic, music-you-can-jazzercise-to lies lyrics that sting. “Listen I don’t really know you/ and I don’t think I want to/ but I think I can fake it if you can.”
It’s hard to not feel like this fun alt-electro is distracting us from the big picture. And it’s doing it very—almost too—easily. Like all the glitz and glamor of Jay Gatsby or the conviction and desire of Willie Stark, the audience can allow the layer of wealth or pageantry to distract from the pain, meaning or substance beneath. Some hear Passion Pit–the electropop, the whining, just-trying-to-be-different vocals, and think– “All shine and no substance.” But in the end, we need the fizzy pop to deal with the darkness.