Whatever your thoughts on Blossoms’ self-titled debut, Cool Like You opens strong. The lead-off track ‘There’s A Reason Why’ is everything you’d expect – or hope for – from a new single, with well-mixed synths underscoring the most effective vocal performance in the Stockport band’s short career. There’s a potent guitar line operating beneath it all, and with every element melding together so well the track is that rarest of things: an effective pop song that survives beyond three minutes. Take note of the opening track, because it’s the last instance of greatness on the entire album.
Blossoms may have been a brighter spot on 2016’s indie roster, but it’s hard to argue that the album has aged well. Amongst widespread criticism of its elementary songwriting, other issues – the pseudo-80’s synths overpowering the instrumentation, the bass and drums being almost non-existent and every track sounding disappointingly similar – have become synonymous with the band themselves.
Cool Like You is an exercise in ignorance, doubling down on Blossoms’ narrow and long-tired style while substituting lovable indie-isms for genuine ugliness
Rather than addressing these problems, Cool Like You is an exercise in ignorance, doubling down on Blossoms’ narrow and long-tired style while substituting lovable indie-isms for genuine ugliness.
The lyrical thread is a failing relationship, albeit one that revives out of nowhere for the closing ‘Love Talk’. The story fails to hold together, though, with little cohesion and absolutely no detail to invest us in the cause, despite framing every track within the theme of heartbreak. It’s the lyrics themselves that offend. Tom Ogden was pleasantly juvenile on the first album, but here he’s flat-out manipulative, bemoaning that he can’t “Do what’s required of you” on ‘Cool Like You’ whilst then labelling his lover as “unfaithful” – on a track of the same name.
Much like the characters of T.S. Eliot, Ogden is more interested in emphasising his misery, not once stopping to consider his own flaws
The move from singing around “my Charlemagne” to accusing her – without evidence – is unlikeable enough, but this casual misogyny is exacerbated by the self-pity. With tracks three-through-ten dwelling on these one-sided emotions, Cool Like You is an extremely repetitive experience. And yet, what’s most noticeable is the lack of any agency on the part of our narrator. Much like the characters of T.S. Eliot – a reference to whom is shoehorned into ‘Unfaithful’ – Ogden is more interested in emphasising his misery than finding a solution, not once stopping to consider his own flaws. This is to gloss over how basic the songwriting is, but it’s even harder to sympathise when the story drags on for forty minutes.
Forget about a ‘signature style’; almost every track on Cool Like You feels like a facsimile of each other. The formula never deviates from the synths-guitar-bass-drums-keyboard blueprint of Blossoms, and it’s hard to trace any sonic development beyond replacing indie-rock riffs with chord progressions straight out of pop. The nostalgic synths are still the core of Blossoms, and they are finely produced – for the most part. They work well as backing for ‘Giving Up the Ghost’, but their clutter and volume destroys the instrumentals on others like ‘I Just Imagined You’.
There’s nothing unusual with an album about love and the fear of losing it. Indeed, ‘love’ that’s as superficial as what appears here is common in modern pop
Ogden’s vocals likewise fail to answer criticism. Even by comparison to his synth-pop counterparts, this is a washed-out and artificial performance, with every line after ‘There’s A Reason Why’ becoming diluted in post-production. His characteristic breathiness softened the first album’s more abrasive lines, but now they’ve become tiresome with his notes extending even beyond the synths behind him. If there’s a positive, they lessen the impact of the more desperate lyricism.
There’s nothing unusual with an album about love and the fear of losing it. Indeed, ‘love’ that’s as superficial as what appears here is common, especially in modern pop. Much like these, however, there’s an insidiousness to Cool Like You that can’t be ignored. This isn’t great songwriting by any standard, but in the wake of bands like Sunflower Bean, Goat Girl and Camp Cope – not to mention MeToo – it becomes even more antiquated. Couple this with an absence of the modesty emblematic of indie and refusing to answer Blossoms’ oft-repeated criticisms, and Cool Like You is an album that does very little to evolve, and even less to improve.