Release Date: Nov 2, 2010
Record label: Parasol Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop
After losing a couple founding members of the group and revamping the ornately arranged chamber pop sound of its early records in favor of something more simple, the 1900s' second full-length could have been a disaster. Instead, Return of the Century is their most impressive record and shows that they were able to turn personal and professional turmoil into a work with great artistic merit. The album is loosely based around the tale of Christina “Licorice” McKechnie, who was a member of the Incredible String Band and after a rather tumultuous stretch of living, disappeared without a trace.
By the band's own explanation, the 1900s' second full-length was inspired by Christina "Licorice" McKechnie, a member of the Incredible String Band and a spiritual seeker who disappeared in 1990. But casual listeners probably won't find this story very obvious or especially compelling: On its surface, Return of the Century plays less like a biographical concept album and more like a series of tough-minded break-up songs that paint their vocalists as emotionally and sexually candid, if not occasionally even callous. "If life was lonely then I'd be blessed," sings Jeanine O'Toole on "Lay a Ghost", "if that was all I missed." These aren't life-changing relationships they're singing about.
The 1900s have slimmed down since their 2007 album Cold & Kind. They’ve lost two founding members and, in the three years since that record honed their heavily orchestrated sound into a humbler, more streamlined brand of pop music. Their indelible hooks remain—remember “When I Say Go”?—but the landscape around them has a much narrower scope and a little more space for the players to work in.
These days in indie pop, you’ve got your subgenre-laden electronic bums, your Slumberland automatons, your scuzzy weed-rockers, your Beach House dreamers, your white laptop D’Angelos. You know that; you’re on top of these things. Now, remember 2004? Remember bands with six million members, boundless grandiosity, and consistently chipper harmonies? Well, Chicagoans The 1900s partake in precisely the sort of jangle-ry that’s no doubt become pretty passé within the inner circle of musical internet cool kids since the start of the Great Recession.
With its sophomore album, Chicago's The 1900s has said goodbye to two band members and the anachronistic orchestral pop of its debut. Century moves the band into the 2000s, while still featuring the occasional nod to '60s songcraft. This change, ironically, strips The 1900s of much of its distinctiveness. However, songs such as the beatific "Lions Fur" prove that the band still knows its way around an affecting melody.