On Brunettes’ third proper album in nine years (albeit their first U.S. release), this libidinous New Zealand duo continue to shake their garage-pop roots while retaining a sense of sauced sarcasm. Hence the playful intro, “Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth,” that bouffantly babbles, “B.A.B.Y./ I love to call you baby,” in a most bubblegum manner, over a Stereolab-y wiggle, garage-fuzzed guitars, druggy horn lines and hearty hand claps. From there, woozy rhythms and dreamy harmonies prevail, with Jonathan Bree’s measured Marc Bolan croon seducing Heather Mansfield’s glassy-eyed swoon on futuristic candy pop (“Her Hairagami Set,” “Wall Poster Star”) and drowsy disco (“Obligatory Road Song”). It all subtly coalesces into Structure & Cosmetics’ best song, “If You Were an Alien,” which offers a hum-along chorus seemingly culled from the distant signal of a transistor radio tossed out the window during the Apollo 13 mission.
This bubbly bachelor pad has some sinister hallways, though. “Small Town Crew” takes a sharp turn on a morning-sunbeam acoustic vibe when Mansfield starts singing about smacking her beau around. And the title track slowly rolls out to Morricone-cum-Mazzy Star expanse once Mansfield suggests, “I want you to control me.” Shadowy moments like these leave cheap merlot stains on all the groovy retro references and eyelash-batting duets these Kiwis toss out with the offhanded haughtiness of passing along a delicious martini recipe.
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