Review: Personal Best- Arnos Vale (Specialist Subject)

Posted: March 27, 2015 in Reviews

Arnos Vale cover art

Personal Best’s brand of scuzzy power-pop is so tight and well-crafted, it is as if they have been making records for years. Yet, Arnos Vale is actually their first LP, following last year’s ‘Lovin’ EP. This album is bright, joyful and poppy, without being cheesy or glossy, like all the best power-pop. The power-pop elements here overlap with ‘90s indie and pop-punk influences. Superchunk, Sugar and The Descendents spring to mind. The latter is perhaps less obvious, but I certainly hear some Milo melodies on Arnos Vale; notably “Beauty is Terror” kind of sounds like a slowed-down, poppier Everything Sucks b-side (as an aside, I wonder if the “million books” line in this song is a reference to All’s “Million Bucks”). So, yes, there are some obvious influences on this album, but Personal Best make it their own, not least with their attitude.

Indeed, there is so much happiness and joy spilling out of this record, it really does put you in a positive mood. Personal Best’s PMA approach to music is a breath of fresh air in the indie/punk underground. Amid the cynicism, this is the glowing reference that ‘love’ needed. It’s obvious in some of the song titles from the get go, like “If You Meet Someone in Love (Wish Them Well)” or “Love is on Your Side”, but for me, the highlight of the album, lyrically and sonically, is “This is What We Look Like”. It is an earnest account of love triumphing over adversity: “I wanna kiss you in the street, where everyone can see/ ‘cause this is what we look like”. All of which is yelped out as if yearning to emerge for years.

Listen here:


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