Thursday, November 24th, 2016

Letters to Cleo – Can’t Say

One of those entries that’s bound to have a bunch of years in it…


Jonathan Bradley: Letters to Cleo were best known as a soundtrack band, and it was for good reason: their brisk power-pop was striking, infectious, and rarely big enough to escape the confines of the cinema screen. After all, we were there to watch Julia Stiles or Rachel Leigh Cook’s snappy dialogue, not the aural scenery pepping up the teenage hijinks — even if “Three Small Words” is one of the early 21st century’s best pop-punk tunes. “Can’t Say,” from the band’s sort-of-comeback, sort-of-nostalgia-mining EP Back to Nebraska is direct and simple, if not actually memorable; Kay Hanley’s reliably bell-clear voice sketches intriguing pictures of wintry turnpikes and elevates a chorus with too few surprises. This is by no means bad: from the opening crunchy barre chords and organ whine — which, naturally, drops away for the galloping drum-driven verse — to the closing hand-claps, this sounds just the thing to be played over an end credits sequence.

Katherine St Asaph: “Comeback” nothing; Kay Hanley has quietly released some of the best power-pop of the past decade: first solo, with Weaponize, then with Palmdale, now here. There’s an alternate version of 2016 in which this is universally loved: a cherished (or at least actually #remembered) part of the ’90s, a foundation for infinite new bands instead of a few scattered Best Coasts and Dollyrots. I would rather live in that one.

Ryo Miyauchi: Letters to Cleo in 2016 sounds like 2002, and I mean in the best way possible. They sport the brand of mall pop The Matrix ushered in with Avril about a decade and a half ago. With Stacy Jones’ choruses sounding best over spit-shined guitars, the preppy ’00 nostalgia befits the band better than dirty ’90s nostalgia.

Alfred Soto: I suppose it’s a milestone that they sound more like Blake Babies than they did during the “Here & Now” days. And in 2016 we need more Blake Babies mimics.

Edward Okulicz: Kay Hanley is a goddess, I love power-pop and approve of ’90s comebacks, so this is an easy pass almost without listening to it. “Can’t Say” isn’t one of Letters to Cleo’s best songs, but it’s got some great moments: the joyous launch into the chorus, Hanley’s pronunciation of the words “tentacle” and “quietly,” the nagging keyboard hook.

Cédric Le Merrer: Guitar windmills, three-note synth riffs and spunky vocals: The time when women-led cheap rockist tricks fail to move me has yet to come.

Ramzi Awn: The familiar chord changes are peppered with synth stabs, but Letters to Cleo’s vocals are as strong as ever. Can’t say they can keep up with Kristin Hersh, but “Can’t Say” does them proud.  

Tim de Reuse: Aggressively ’90s, right down to the tinny keyboard-preset synth strings triumphantly squeaking out a sunny melody in the background. It feels like a by-the-numbers reboot of a band that had its moment of fame over a decade ago, and it’s certainly no “Here and Now,” but it’s well-produced and catchy and cheery and damned if 2016 doesn’t need a little more of that.

Reader average: [7.33] (3 votes)

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