'Put The Shine On' Review: CocoRosie tackle sexual assault, abandonment and death in hauntingly beautiful album
Let's take a moment to appreciate how CocoRosie's vocal style grows with each album. The harmonies that open the band's seventh album are hauntingly melodic and they immediately draw you in.
Opening track 'High Road' appears to be a cautionary tale to young girls everywhere. "Never cry wolf / Don't tell lies / Don't let the boys / Between your thighs." It speaks to the contradictory messages girls often receive which tell them that it's their job to stay safe from predators. The song ends on a poetic note that highlights the strength a young girl must draw up to face her demons and the loss she deals with when she is abandoned by her protectors. The emotion and meaning in this song are beautifully reflected in the music. You can almost feel a sense of urgency that makes you want to flee from that which chases you.
'Mercy' continues in the same vein, giving us glimpses of horrors that plague the world and traumatize our souls. The song hints at the loss of innocence and the allure of vices, lamenting the wrong turns we take when we hit a fork in the road. Musically and lyrically, this song resembles the 2007 track 'Werewolf'. Both allude to sexual assault and a father's abandonment, and both speak of the trauma a young girl goes through at the hands of the monsters around her. But 'Mercy' carries layers and depth to it that makes the message even more intense.
'Restless' has been described by the duo as a "love song that tells the story of a woman who, ravaged by the dark side of love, eventually becomes undone". Once again, the song alludes to a father abandoning their daughter and in the process, giving her a false sense of love and leading her down paths of self-destruction in her search for 'the one'.
As the song closes out with the rather hopeless, "She lost her way / And with no trace to find her way home", you feel an impending sense of doom.
We instantly get a pick-me-up with 'Smash My Head', which is a total fight song. Musically, it speeds things up and gets you pumped up for what comes next, but lyrically it talks about being pushed to the limit and ripped apart but somehow still getting back up. Speaking about the track, CocoRosie have said it is a "running-on-fire cry from the teenage heart, an inner scream we never dared to let out". "The song climaxes in an exaltation, an expression of ecstatic death. It journeys from a hard-knock desert childhood scene to a transcendent cosmic passing to another realm," they said.
'Where Did All The Soldiers Go' follows, and takes us from the high we were on to wondering where our protectors go when we are battered and bruised.
'Hell's Gate' once again alludes to childish innocence coming undone, from 'taking the shine off' to 'handing in your chips at Hell's Gate' when you have run out of wishes. 'Did Me Wrong' finally leans into the carnival music you hear more subtly in previous songs, a motif that is frequently present in CocoRosie's songs and is one of the best representations of how childish wonder and worldly horror can intermingle perfectly. The song refers to the duo's struggles with finding acceptance for both their queer identities as well as their musical choices.
Leading from acceptance to conspiracy, we get something a little different from CocoRosie with 'Lamb & the Wolf'. Speaking about the track the duo has said, "It’s a sweltering summer jam to funk to. It’s a whole new set of colors for us; yellow, orange, red and green mostly. There’s something kind of early Sesame Street about it but you can dig for yourself. Get on your sweatbands and prepare for some high kicks and karate chops or least loud claps."
That's a rather perfect description, given how much like a cheerleader's chant the song sounds. But following track 'Slow Down Sun Down' kicks things back again, and is a stunningly mellow song that sees both Bianca and Sierra at the top of their game with a rap that flows beautifully and vocals that sound like they were taken off a vintage record that cracks and splutters but still tugs at the heartstrings.
CocoRosie reworked their track 'Smoke 'em Out' featuring Future Feminist ANOHNI for the song 'Burning Down the House'. The song is heavier than the original, replacing the more disco-inspired sounds with intense beats and synth. "In the wake of this unnatural disaster, we feel a call to rise, shout, and burn the house down. The future is female," the duo had said under the original song, and that message remains in the remake as well.
'Ruby Red' follows and has the duo embracing love and life as they bid adieu to their departed mother. With 'Aloha Friday', we get familiar CocoRosie sound and words that are equal parts revelatory and healing. As with everything they do, CocoRosie takes us on a journey into ourselves and helps us face what lurks within, bringing it to the surface and helping us face it.
Thematically, CocoRosie draw on the same life experiences that seem to always underscore how they write lyrics, particularly sexual assault and being abandoned by a father, and this often ties in to their later experiences with men and the world at large.
But each time they create new music around these themes, they layer in more depth to it. It's a lot like how painful experiences can often continue to reveal layers to them as the years go by and how grief often comes in waves and never all at once.