Thursday, April 19, 2007


Pocket Symphony
Score: 6

You know how it goes: You spin a few records, toss back a few cocktails, bed a few lovelies, sell a few hundred thousand albums. Then you wake up one morning and you're an old man.

Where'd the time go?

Parisian duo Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin are approaching the big four-oh, and the measured, somber currents that flow through Pocket Symphony make it clear they've been dwelling on that question.

"Once Upon a Time" opens like an hourglass spilling sand up and down the piano keys. "Time's getting on / time's over now," Dunckel reminds himself on the worry-bead chorus.

Tick-tock, tick-tock, replies the percussion in the next track, "One Hell of a Party," upon which Jarvis Cocker of Pulp provides the vocals. Cocker passed the age milestone four years ago, but hardly no worse for the wear, it would seem. As he alludes to a pounding headache in the "burnt-out husk of the morning," he sounds haggard enough to pass for 60: "This was one hell of a party / Nobody got to go to bed / But this morning-after's killing me."

That's the body for you. As the metabolism slows down, so does the ability to process all those substances. And, like those of the liver, matters of the heart aren't what they used to be. On "Napalm Love," Dunckel's gasping confession "I'm falling in love" eventually becomes "I'm burning alive."

In other words, this ain't no "Playground Love."

Aside from those tracks, much of Pocket Symphony relies on instrumentals and songs that use lyrics sparingly, each a monochromatic raindrop in a soup of gray.

"Mayfair Song" proffers a reflective mood that ventures into post-Play Moby territory, thanks to its chilled-out piano and synth ripple. "Night Sight," on the other hand, paces back and forth with the rhodes, gazing into the darkness. Out there somewhere, Dunckel and Godin see their lost youth.

They're aren't necessarily nostalgic. Just disappointed that it's gone so soon.

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