Hell / Heaven / Big / Love is the new EP from Montreal alt rockers Parlovr (pronounced "parlour"). The EP is scattershot, reflecting the open ended process the band used putting this together. They started with one song, Hell, Heaven and then built the remaining tracks in the studio. Each song has its own mood or moods, creating a deliberate lack of continuity. I like the artistic statement, but it's undermined by the EP format, which tends to be weak on continuity anyway. That said, the songs are interesting and full-bodied with sound. Fragments of Modest Mouse and the Pixies crunch underfoot.
According to the band, Hell, Heaven is about growing up in the Middle East. The lyrics are fuzzed and it's hard to pull out all the words. The anthemic chorus transcends words anyway. "Hell, heaven" is enough to understand. The song starts with the patented indie rock intro of a beat, jangly guitars, and wordless backup vocals building into a crescendo. The layers of staccato guitar riffs interlocking create a path to the song proper. I really like the low foundation of bassy synth supporting a pair of contrapuntal guitar parts.
Big Love is more of a post punk/synth rock groove. Shards of Depeche Mode, New Order, and a host of other bands have been swept to the side, but not out of sight. The song is simple as it modulates between two chords. They throw in a single chord bridge to change the pace. The surprise ending during a sudden '80s rock style drum break solves the problem of "where do we go from here?"
Hell / Heaven / Big / Love veers into power pop next, with Where is the Sun. It's jaunty and fun. The bridge/ending vamps on a low vocal that's almost a guttural groan, which builds into a chaotic garage groove.
The EP wraps up with Tehching Hsieh, about the Chinese born performance artist. The music bounces in an upbeat, Adam Ant post-punk sound (a bit like Antmusic). The lyrics describe his life and art, starting with his arrival jumping ship to America. The chorus is wide open and repetitious, balancing the beat of the verses. The vocals are a bit experimental, with laughing and wordless parts.
True to their vision, Parlovr doesn't try to provide or claim a narrative or musical theme to Hell / Heaven / Big / Love. They want each song to be taken on its own merits. As such, the songs are decent, but lack impact - like a serviceable amber ale.