Strawberry Whiplash Hits In The Car

[Matinée ; 2012]

Styles: twee, noise pop, C86, indie pop
Others: Heavenly, Talulah Gosh, Betty and the Werewolves, Seapony, Bubblegum Lemonade

In his justly famous essay The Question Concerning Technology, über-philosopher Martin Heidegger expressed his fear that the colonization of the realm of Being by technology (as techne) meant that everything — from nature to human relationships — would be enframed, transformed into “standing-reserve.” Technology becomes not a tool, but a mode of existence. On “Everybody’s Texting,” Strawberry Whiplash come to a similar conclusion:

Everybody’s texting
Nobody talks…
Can you read me?
Turn your reception in my direction
Here I am, here and now, here I am.

Despite the trite nature of the sentiment, it’s interesting to hear a retro-pop song discuss texting, signals, and information flows — and this might speak to the increasing inescapability of addiction to devices, to the outsourcing of the mind, to the masturbatory (lol) self-gratification of the screen as social mediator.

Nonetheless, listening to Hits In The Car is definitely a (self-)gratifying experience. Strawberry Whiplash announce their attentions in their moniker, begotten from an amalgam of pastoral 80s synthpoppers Strawberry Switchblade and similar-vintage noise poppers Meat Whiplash. (I can’t let this moment go past without expressing my disappointment, shared by other wags, that they didn’t go with “Meat Switchblade.”) Hits In The Car is obviously a loving recreation of the 80s twee pop/noise pop sound, particularly as it came out of Glasgow, from where our contemporary heroes hail. But it’s done extremely well, bringing to fruition the tantalizing promise of EPs Who’s In Your Dreams? and Picture Perfect. (The title track of the second also features on the present album.)

For this reviewer’s money, the chief, though oft-blurry, subdivision in the twee arena is that, between clear, ringing jangles, and fuzzy lo-fi, Strawberry Whiplash tend toward the latter. But if they’re era purists, they’re not genre absolutists. That is to say, there’s some blurring around the edges of the template, most notably on “You Make Me Shine” (a duet recalling The Jesus and Mary Chain and Hope Sandoval’s “Sometimes Always”) and “Sleepy Head” (a pleasant slice of Isn’t Anything-era My Bloody Valentine pastiche). The other dividing line that often obtains in this style is more temporal, between the moment of the crush (exciting and nerve-racking, but essentially romantic and hopeful) and the bittersweet, melancholy disappointment of being on the receiving end of a spurning. Although there are some slower moments tempo-wise, Hits In The Car traverses the terrain of the first — so get your cardie on and join me for a bedroom dance! (Not a euphemism in this context.)

Heidegger was not a Luddite technophobe; he concluded that, in order to avoid the danger inherent in the modern relationship to technology, humans must recognize the claim being made upon them by this mode of existence. In doing so, they recognize that their Being is not a Being-alone, but always a Being-with; so, with this knowledge in hand, we can stop our subservient “sleepwalking around with our heads to the ground” (“Everybody’s Texting,” again). According to Heidegger, this can be done if we remember to “listen, but not obey.” In the present case, however, I’d turn the equation around: Obey me, and listen to Hits In The Car.

Links: Strawberry Whiplash - Matinée

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