The most repetitive lyrics of its title song, “Model Buses,” perfectly describe the theme and direction that UK band Lovejoy’s new EP, Pebble Brain, takes: “You’re just scared of the future.” With a runtime of 23 minutes, the Oct. 14 album instantly became the perfect addition to Lovejoy’s brief but wonderful discography, nearly tripling it with seven brand new songs.
Pebble Brain opens up with “Oh Yeah, You Gonna Cry?” a song that mocks the boyfriend of a woman in an unhappy relationship, from the perspective of a . . . friend, potentially a future lover? Certainly someone who has the audacity to make fun of said horrible boyfriend. “OYYGC” is not necessarily an introduction, but it certainly opens up the album’s diverse perspectives on relationships. Lovejoy’s previous EP, Are You Alright?, focused solely on the singer and their lack of luck in relationships, but, already, we have a more playful song about someone else’s failing romance, and the singer is the one who comes out victorious.
The title song falls into the second spot on the EP, and, on the surface, is most likely about the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson. Deeper down, though, “Model Buses” represents a balanced mix of anxiety and desire for moving on. On one hand, letting go and moving on is freeing — hence the uppity beats and carefree nature of the music video — but it can still be so terrifying, per the lyrics that explicitly mention being afraid of the future. Even the idea of a ‘model bus’ shows this excitement and fear: an object that represents movement, but can’t actually take you anywhere.
Speaking of explicit stillness: “Concrete” is the second song on Pebble Brain to get a music video, and it is even sillier than the first. Wilbur Soot is in a bar with just a cameraman and a microphone, lip syncing along to lyrics that hint at a neglectful and unloyal relationship. The lyrics make light of the singer’s infidelity and tendency to stay out late: “All this over a kiss! / You weren’t there, why’re you pressed by this? / Now it’s turning three in the morning / The bouncer’s put you on his third warning / But I’m still here; I’m not leaving.” Reflective of this, Soot continues to happily lip sync along to “Concrete” as he is thrown out of a bar and subsequently beat up in an alley in the music video.
Smack in the middle of Pebble Brain is my favorite Lovejoy song to date, one that almost did not make it onto the EP: “Perfume.” A friend of Wilbur Soot’s, TommyInnit, convinced Soot to keep the song on Pebble Brain, and therefore delayed the EP’s release as the band worked to revise the song until they were comfortable adding it to their discography. It was all worth the wait, though, as “Perfume” quickly became the favorite of many Lovejoy fans. “Perfume” flips the timeline of “OYYGC” on its head; this song is about the singer’s ex-girlfriend rather than future girlfriend, though the current, unfit partner is still the song’s main conflict. A small but important detail in the lyrics of “Perfume” is the use of he/they pronouns for the ex-girlfriend’s current partner: the singer despises them, but still uses his pronouns accurately — proof that it’s not difficult to do!
“You’ll Understand When You’re Older” is one of the most interesting songs in Lovejoy’s discography. It is also one of the darkest, unpacking a woman’s trauma as she deals simultaneously with being an essential worker during the COVID-19 pandemic and an abusive relationship. It is a very hopeless song, opening up with “Said I’d understand when I’m older / Said I’d understand the things they do,” suggesting that the same, or at least a similar, future is fated for the singer. The lyrics also say, “And you think that it gets better / Just you wait until next week,” which offers absolutely no hope for the woman in the story. It’s a very heavy song, and it doesn’t even try to offset the traumatic storyline by being upbeat, the way “Perfume” and “Concrete” did. “YUWYO” is very raw, and interrupts the carefree tone of the album — though this is not a bad thing, in my opinion. If anything, it shows that the singer has empathy, refusing to play off this particular bad situation with upbeat tones because it is not his own.
As we begin to fall into the end of the album, Pebble Brain takes quite the turn. As the second to last song on the EP, “The Fall” begins to commentate on society, especially class issues. The lyrics are from the perspective of poor/working class people dealing with depression, and coming to face the realities of an uncaring humanity. The end of the song sounds like a mental breakdown, with frustrated, accusatory lyrics: “So come on, one and all, and see the apathy! . . . I look to all of you and see a different fucking species! . . . And when you’ve reached the top, there’s nowhere else to go but . . . [sigh],” all more screamed than sung. It’s a brutal dive into uncaring rich people and the hold they have over society, while poor and working class people are forced to struggle and grapple with their individual situations, often battling mental illness at the same time.
If you thought we were losing hope, you’re right: the last song on Pebble Brain is called “It’s All Futile! It’s All Pointless!” As you can imagine, the lyrics of this song are quite hopeless, too, talking about the uselessness of education, the necessity of work in a capitalist society, the inevitable falling out of love. And the lyrics sting: “I lost the passion that comes with living / Since I started university . . . I don’t miss you / I miss the thought of what we were . . . And what was your thought when you realized / You’ll never feel naive love again? . . . You held his hands, it felt like flying / Now he’s just another man.” Ouch. The song has the audacity to end with hopeful-sounding lyrics, persistent “It’s okay!”’s as the song fades out, offset with slightly muffled “anything to make you feel less numb”s.
Pebble Brain is certainly an emotional journey, and it ends with the heaviest feeling of existentialism I’ve felt in a while. I love it, though, and the album has been on repeat all week, so Lovejoy certainly did something right. If you’re interested in giving it a listen, you can check it out on Spotify or YouTube! If you want to skip all the existentialism (understandably), start off with “Perfume” or “Model Buses;” if you are completely new to Lovejoy, I would also suggest “Taunt,” from their previous EP. (Be warned: don’t listen to Lovejoy if you’re already having a particularly rough day; they will ruin your emotional state!)
Featured Image: Courtesy of Spotify