As we descend into the macabre musicality that Pocket of Lollipops’ new single “Face Value” has in store for listeners, barking dogs and unsettling noise overwhelm us, a stinging feedback saturates the master mix in glistening fuzz, and the beginnings of a surreal spoken word piece start to form before our very ears. There is no actual melody; only a gilded texture that imparts physicality skewed with emotion, and alongside a Bauhaus-style vocal track, we learn the story of the song via two distinct artistic channels. The boisterous equalization benefits the gritty arrangement of instruments beautifully, and if you appreciate experimental songcraft as much as I do, this is definitely a track that you’re going to want to check out this February.
Despite its deceptive title, the construction of “Face Value” should be taken at anything but, as the song’s most sterling qualities lie within its dexterous, calculated composition. Pocket of Lollipops didn’t spare any effort in making this a definitively muscular noise rock anthem, and arguably, their most robustly produced release to date. Obviously it’s devoid of the pop polish and commercialized varnish that you would find in a more mainstream alternative track, but there’s no denying that it’s a stylishly appointed mix, which defines even the subtlest of nuances within the diverse sonic profile of the band exquisitely. The grizzly atmosphere that hangs over the actual music cushions an obscure but tangibly catchy bass hook in the center of all the instrumental chaos. We don’t have to dig very deep to find it, yet it’s shrouded in a seemingly endless array of guttural tones meticulously structured around a stoic beat.
The provocatively-stylized instrumental portion of this song doesn’t take away from the angular spoken word administered from within the eye of the storm. Without this superbly invasive approach to the mix, I don’t know if this track would be quite as accessible as it is, even for more ardent noise aficionados raised in the school of Masami Akita and Metal Machine Music. There are some shades of Ulrich Krieger and even Sonic Youth present here that I really think mesh well with the overall direction that Pocket of Lollipops has been taking as of late, but make no mistake about it – this sound is fresh and completely their own.
It’s as experimental and eccentric as they come, but nevertheless, Pocket of Lollipops’ “Face Value” is engaging far beyond anything that mainstream pop music has to offer audiences at the moment. Though their brand of punk will never be fodder for the corporate FM dial, I don’t get the impression that Pocket of Lollipops cares whether or not their music breaks the Top 40. They answer to a much higher calling; the desire for intellectually-stimulating, provocatively designed music that moves us in ways that aren’t limited to radio-friendly rhythms and halfhearted lyrical rhymes alone. “Face Value” challenges us to exclude any prerequisite concepts of what we think music is supposed to sound like when experiencing its story, and it makes for a sublimely existential listening experience to say the least.