Album: The Facts of Life
Artist: Black Box Recorder
Reason Featured: #40 Album for NME’s Top Fifty Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: The Art of Driving, Weekend, The Deverell Twins, Goodnight Kiss
Their Grades: Pitchfork (7.3/10), NME (8/10), Robert Christgau (A)
My Grade: 80%
If you took the most mellow moments of mid-nineties Pulp and replaced Jarvis Cocker with a bookish sounding young woman, you’d have Black Box Recorder’s The Facts of Life. The ghostly keyboards, classy basslines and dark, witty asides to England’s reservations about sex and manners all make for the kind of music Jarvis would be proud of. It’s no surprise considering one of the members of this group came from The Auteurs and another from The Jesus & Mary Chain. The sounds of Britpop weren’t just in their blood, they helped draw up the blueprints.
But it suffers from the pitfalls of the genre too. The songs here can, at times, seem so hung up on their own soft cleverness that there’s not much room for interesting musical exploration. Once you’ve heard the first two songs on here, you’ve heard the rest of the record too. But this style of music is arguably my favorite kind in the world so it’s hard for me to blame them for repeating themselves.
With that said, “The Art of Driving” and especially “Weekend” evoke the same youthful claustrophobia for me as movies like The Virgin Suicides. There’s something so innocent about them but beneath their surface lay skeletons beneath the floorboards. It’s this that made major league bands like Suede and Pulp so powerful and a minor league band like Black Box Recorder so intriguing too.
Not featured on Spotify but here’s a video for “69 Police”