Mariage Blanc

Mariage Blanc

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On their self-titled debut album, the members of Pittsburgh-based jangle pop band Mariage Blanc (listed as Matt Ceraso, Joshua Dotson, John Kretzmer, Sam Mcumber, and Chris Williams with no indication who does what) come off as subversive, at least in the sense that, on the surface, their music is so catchy and accessible, while upon examination it is far more disturbing. The song structures are steady, with buoyant rhythms and chiming pop riffs on guitar and keyboards (plus a trumpet and a few strings here and there), as if borrowed from the Hit Parade of the mid-1960s. Yet the songs have no choruses, which gives them a relentlessness and a sense of being unresolved. And while the singer calmly keeps to the melodies in his rhyming couplets, augmented with lush harmonies in many cases, the lyrics are full of distress. The singer is speaking to and about a romantic companion he seemingly can't live with or without, though he seems to be trying to reconcile himself to living without. The dichotomy between the music's surface and its content recalls Britain's the Beautiful South, another band intent on presenting poisoned pop. But Mariage Blanc doesn't take the clever, cynical approach of the Beautiful South, preferring a kind of "music minus one" approach in which the pop effect is suggested without being fulfilled. Hence, subversive.

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