Real Estate: The Main Thing review – artfully polished tedium


Three albums of catchily jangling indie into their career, New Jersey’s Real Estate parted ways with founding member and lead guitarist Matt Mondanile in 2016, after a series of women made allegations of sexual misconduct against him. His replacement, Julian Lynch, slotted into the band seamlessly, and the following year’s album, In Mind, picked up where they had left off, showing no dip in form. Which just makes The Main Thing all the more bafflingly anticlimactic.

It isn’t that there is very much wrong with it. The elegant guitar lines still evoke Yo La Tengo, and producer Kevin McMahon has coaxed perfectly fine performances from Real Estate and their collaborators (most notably Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath on Paper Cup). It’s all evidently been carefully thought out. But, except for the unexpected Felt inflections on the disappointingly brief November, and the unusually direct title track, the songs here are achingly dull.

Silent World, for example, floats in on a gentle, mid-paced guitar line, Martin Courtney softly sings wilfully elliptical lines about “knowing what we don’t know” that channel Donald Rumsfeld, and a string quartet provides tasteful backing. And then off it drifts again, leaving the haziest of imprints on the memory, like waking from a particularly mundane dream about buying dental floss, say. It’s the rule rather than the exception on an album overloaded with artfully polished tedium.

Watch the video for Real Estate’s Paper Cup.


Phil Mongredien

The GuardianTramp

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