I’ve always felt that Saloon got a raw deal. Comparisons to Stereolab were apt, but a little unfair, as it’s a little too easy to compare any band that makes Moog and farfisa-driven music and features a bilingual female singer to Stereolab. For those of us who were following the British indie-pop scene of the late 1990s and early 2000s, then Saloon’s handful of limited-edition singles showed a young band with great promise and the ability to pack magic into a small seven-inch slab of vinyl. Yep, they were a really great band, and they only got better with each single released. But then something most unexpected happened, when they released their debut album—they lost something. Over the course of a single, Saloon’s music was poppy and upbeat and powerful. Over the course of an album, though, their music weakened, and the magic and sparkle of their singles just disappeared—and, worst of all, the band seemed lost in the Stereolab/Broadcast comparisons. Their debut, (This Is) What We Call Progress was okay, but their follow-up If We Meet In The Future was boring. That they broke up not long after releasing the album didn’t seem like much of a surprise. It was sad, this promising young band just didn’t seem able to deliver on the promises of their first few records.
For those of us who loved early Saloon, Lo-Fi Sounds, Hi-Fi Heart is a much-welcomed compilation of all of Saloon’s seven-inch singles and compilation appearances, because those singles were indeed quite special. Their early releases, such as “Electron” and “Futurismo,” highlighted a band that was having fun with their music. Those early tracks highlight a beauty and a youthful innocence that makes listening to them quite enjoyable. Personally, my favorite of the bunch was their excellent “Freefall” single; it captured the band at a really great crossroads; they’d honed down their early, lo-fi sound into a glorious pop sheen, and it seemed as if the band would and could soon conquer the world. The A-side, “Freefall,” was pure pop; the B-side, “Movimiento,” was a swirling psychedelic pop treat. But other songs, such as “Have You Seen the Light,” taken from a split tour single with Dressy Bessy, the wonderful organ grinding of “Impact,” and later songs “Pink” and “I’ve Found a Way” show the band’s maturity was a fertile breeding ground for mature, beautiful indie-pop.
Maybe Saloon never had a chance. Maybe they were simply a band destined to be beloved by only a few, to escape the world’s eye, and to be dismissed by the cynical as imitators. Lo-Fi Sounds, Hi-Fi Heart is a wonderful collection for those who know better.
Listen To: "Shopping"
Listen To: "Impact"
Label Website: Darla Records