Of all the current crop on indie champs, Blossoms’ career progression arguably has the most certainty to it that’s possible to appreciate. While Catfish And The Bottlemen are content with remaking the same album over and over again and Circa Waves are currently doing god-knows-what, Blossoms have evolved from just another group of chancers with one hit to their name to a more refined synthpop project that only seems to be moving forward. Their 2018 sophomore album Cool Like You might have faded over time in a wider consciousness, but a sense of watery gentleness that served as the overriding mood felt like a nice change of pace overall, and the net momentum picked up has essentially planted Blossoms’ feet in the ground of festival favourites for a good, long time to come. It’s rare to see a band come from that world that’s so quick to embrace their own direction and influences rather than double down on the lad-rock rubric that’s become so tiresome, but Blossoms have filled that gap, and even if they’re not the most immediate or rousing of bands because of it, the fact that they’re actually doing their own thing to a degree is still something.
What’s more, not slavishly bowing down to what’s directly in vogue has opened up the pathway of creative freedom for Blossoms a bit more, and that seems to be where Foolish Loving Spaces has gone down. In an embrace of ‘80s pop bands with a distinctly British spin, there’s a modest little album here that can be quite enjoyable, complete with the insularity in scope that feels authentic but tips dangerously close to toothlessness in execution. It’s all as easygoing and starry-eyed as that brand of pop should be, and regardless of its shortcomings when placed in a modern context, Blossoms are definitely equipped to do what’s needed of them, and Foolish Loving Spaces certainly sits well enough because of it.
It’s generally a case of how refreshing the basis of Blossoms’ current sound is in the musical climate, eschewing the majority of indie touchstones in favour of a more lush, blurred-over sound reminiscent of acts like Deacon Blue or Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Those lighter sophisti-pop tones are a rarity these days, but the ease with which Blossoms sink into them makes them seem like worthwhile proprietors of it. The dreamy guitars blended in with steady bass work and a prominent piano backbone on tracks like The Keeper and My Swimming Brain really do cultivate the lounging yet opulent vibe really well, something which seems to go even further with the rounded synths, propulsive tick and blurred-out backing vocals of the closer Like Gravity which could’ve been directly imported from all manner of ‘80s pop stars. Alternatively, the likes of Your Girlfriend and Sunday Was A Friend Of Mine feel more in touch with the band’s indie roots thanks to a bit more prominent guitar work, but even that’s reduced to a fragment akin to a good deal of new wave and synthpop, using it as more of an accompaniment but never muscling it away altogether. Alongside production that feels well-rounded enough to give Blossoms the space they need, Foolish Loving Spaces achieves its goals rather well a lot of the time, only really faltering when the whole idea seems to run its course and Blossoms begin to scramble about what to do. And that does happen here, leading to some unfortunate lulls particularly in the back half, where tracks like Oh No (I Think I’m In Love) and Romance, Eh?, while still catchy, aren’t as inspired in their musical progressions, and the truncated jangle-pop of My Vacant Days could’ve just been cut altogether.
It’s proven to be a consistent flaw in Blossoms’ music, where they’re capable of nailing down an idea that’s a good fit for them, but struggle to keep it going over the course of an entire album and only find real success in fragments. It becomes even more noticeable in this case when the scale is kept so small and the love song templates are rather basic, even if they have a few endearing qualities that shine through regardless. There’s something inherently charming about frontman Tom Ogden portraying himself as something of a lovestruck loser on Your Girlfriend and The Keeper (even if the former does have him lusting over his housemate’s partner), and blissful contentment contrasting with hangdog cluelessness on Romance, Eh? is inherently likable on its own. But again, there’s only so much mileage that these basic frameworks can eke out, and while there’s something somewhat intoxicating about the constant lovestruck air, it can be spread out a bit too thinly, and it leaves Foolish Loving Spaces as rather top-heavy and tapering off. It’s definitely not bad, but it’s also not indicative of a rock-solid core that Blossoms have been missing for pretty much their entire career, even if they are admittedly verging closer towards it.
There’s still enough here to give Foolish Loving Spaces a pass though, an album that goes down smoothly and finds a band indulging in creative impulses that might have the most appeal in their own heads, but turns out rather well all the same. The need for tightening and condensing notwithstanding, there’s something workable here that could do a lot moving forward, as Blossoms stumble upon where their drive has the most potential for them to build on. There’s still some work that needs to be done, but on the whole this is solid stuff from a band who deserve their success more than most; they continue to stick to their guns without bending backwards to appease the tastemakers who could easily leave them behind, and the fact it seems to be working for them is all the more reason to carry on.
For fans of: Roxy Music, Deacon Blue, The Waterboys
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Foolish Loving Spaces’ by Blossoms is out now on Virgin EMI Records.