The Brunettes’ last LP was called Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks. Or, a perfect summary of what’s sickening about twee pop. Luckily the coed New Zealanders have a dark streak in their corn silk, and the dynamic between cynical and sweet really sells Mars Loves Venus. Jonathan Bree glowers like Jonathan Richman, and Heather Mansfield isn’t too pure to admit that sad love songs kick her ass. Venus’ bedroom production and mostly tinny instrumentation are standard operating procedure for the genre. But writing something as fantastic and sticky as "Loopy Loopy Love" isn’t easy — it’s Nu Shooz meeting a 21st century Ohio Express — and following that with the brittle, meditative "Too Big for Gidget" is just plain smart. Selfish, sexual and scared, "Gidget" scratches the seedy side of bright-smile ’60s pop. The sly "Record Store" is tinged with xylophone and brass, and "Leonard Says" is a heartening look at an indie pop love life. Other tracks incorporate keyboards, strings, handclaps, loopy electric guitar and charming references to Blondie, the Vaselines, Spice Girls and the Ronettes. The Brunettes used to be happy with just being sweet. But on Mars Loves Venus they realize a wiser form of twee for longer lasting freshness.
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.