Critical Voices: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Pershing

April 3, 2008

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Pershing, Polyvinyl

On Pershing, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin are peddling something you’ve heard before. The band’s second album is filled with the kind of amiable indie pop—replete with soft drums and guitar hooks—that sounds good on playlists for parties where you’re not friends with everyone coming. This kind of music is certainly available elsewhere, but the band does their work competently.

The music doesn’t have enough weight to hold your interest on its own, so let’s enjoy the album the way it begs to be enjoyed: as the inspirational blueprint for an as-yet-unwritten biopic of the Russian president whose name the band has ridden to fame.

Wisely ignoring the unremarkable “Glue Girls,” the film version of the album would open with “Boring Fountain”: horns would rise and fall as Yeltsin montages through the perestroika-era Soviet Union. Lead singer John Robert Cardwell’s mournful voice accompanies shots of Gorbachev balling his hands into fists, setting up the jaunty losses to come.

Later, standing on a tank in front of parliament, Yeltsin coos “Dead Right” to the Russian Federation. “I don’t want to get drunk, I just want to get some,” he pleads, claiming a temperance we know he doesn’t have. Still, it’s a wise choice on Yeltsin’s part, as Cardwell’s voice would melt the heart of even the hardest of communist hardliners. I haven’t heard a voice this caramel since Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard in his better moments.

“Oceanographer” is the album’s biggest stumbling block for an aspiring screenwriter, since it exists just to show off the band’s rhyming dictionary. Topographers, court stenographers and photographers are thrown into a jumble based more on assonance than coherence.

“Think I Wanna Die” can double as Yeltsin’s farewell to Chechnya and the band’s farewell to (yet another) girlfriend. Cardwell’s voice—wounded but somehow ebullient—dances over the beats, sounding like pulls on a delicate stringed instrument, while our hero snores.

Unfortunately, the album’s surplus of songs about indistinguishable and always failed romantic relationships mean that practically any song on the album could be about Yeltsin and Putin, or Yeltsin and his bottle. The eventual screenwriter will just have to exercise the imagination and restraint the band didn’t.

Voice’s Choices: “Think I Wanna Die,” “Boring Fountain,” “Dead Right”

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