Are Pearls pretending too much with ‘Pretend You’re Mine’?

Ah, the dilemma of offering up a tremendous first – and second – single. Have you given all you’ve got, and left your album without anything else to give? Or, is your album enough to back these up? With each new single, EP, album, mixtape, whatever you want to call it, it seems genres are becoming a thing of the past. No longer do we have “rock” albums, or “pop” albums. Instead, we have hyphenated sub-genres of “rock” or “pop”, and it seems the more hyphens the better (or not…) The problem with this is, how much is too much? How do you include everything you want, but retain cohesion and balance to deliver a great first album?

These are the questions I found myself asking upon listening to Melbourne band Pearls, and their debut album Pretend You’re Mine. Good, not great, Pretend You’re Mine could have been amazing had they developed their sound a little more before heading into the studio. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic moments on this album, and I can’t wait to see these live, but for the most part – it sounds like not even Pearls know who they are, and it shows.

First track, and first single, Big Shot, a sultry, sassy glam-pop but also psychedelic number, things are off to a great start. The chords have attitude, the vocalists have even more, and the thumping, stomping track really gets you going. This pretty much a perfect first single, and had me hooked on this band from first listen, eager to hear more. Bookending the album is second single Pretend You’re Mine, which satisfied my need for picking up where they left off with Big Shot. In the same vein as T-Rex or even Tame Impala, these two tracks are winners, and had me almost betting their album would be the same.

However, the truth is I was sadly disappointed. Although encompassing a lot of different styles and a lot of ambition, the in-between tracks are pretty much just dreamy shoegaze, stacked on reverb and spacey, ethereal vocals. With the exception of Better Off Alone or Baby, there really isn’t much going on here. It’s a bit messy, which is unfortunate given the calibre of their first two releases. Although these tracks show promise, they repeatedly fall short as the band struggles to figure out what they want to sound like. All the right influences are there, but they just can’t seem to get there. Maybe they want to be a glam pop band, but to me they’re a 90’s dream pop/shoegaze band with nostalgia for the 80’s. Pigeonholing yourself so early on can be a dangerous game to play, and it seems to have been counterproductive here.

There is no question that Pretend You’re Mine does indeed show a lot of promise for Pearls. It’s clear they are capable of outstanding work, and has left me curious to see how they would re-create this on stage. Perhaps they needed this to happen to figure out for themselves where they want to go, as it’s this clarity and direction that will help them step things up in the future. My only wish if for them to not play it as safe next time around, there needs to be more Big Shots or Pretend You’re Minds released, and less not-so-special dreamy shoegaze into the world, and these guys are the ones to do it!

Pearls tour dates:

27th February
Camp Casual, Gippsland

19th March
Goodgod, Sydney

21st March
The Curtin, Melbourne