Personal Best are a trio from Bristol UK that I was fortunately wise to because their singer sang a lot on Bedford Falls’ last album. I enjoyed their first EP quite a bit. It hinted at a Superchunk-y, ecstatically astute power-pop, but I remained at a distance for some reason. This album, though, has smitten me stupid.
Lauren Denitzio, from The Measure [SA] and Worriers, did the album art, and Personal Best seems to have channeled some of Denitzio’s ferocious melodicism into their already poppy songs. The ten songs bluster by in 24 minutes, but each one is memorable, beautiful. The relative ballad is “This Is What We Look Like,” which only sticks around for 3:44 and features some of the best dynamics on the album, lugging distorted guitars, dropping them for a jangly refrain. Almost any song could be a single, even the 38-second intro statement, “The Mission,” which prays that “All of my shame / has gotta be worth something to you.” It ends with a song called “Beauty is Terror” and it made me ask myself whether that’s what I’ve been terrified of this whole time. I don’t think it is, but it was worth asking.
Personal Best can sell the romance of “This is What We Look Like” (“I wanna kiss you in the street / where everyone can see”) and the honesty of “Beauty is Terror” in the same “pleasant,” love-centric pop. Pleasant in a non-derogatory sense–(what’s wrong with being pleased by music?)–pleasant in the way of Superchunk or newer bands like Chumped, whose joy is unrestrained on record, who summon love by making meaning out of guitars and choruses. I love this album. It gives me the same satisfaction as The Rebels Not In by The Halo Benders, A Nod is as Good as a Wink by Faces–albums so impressively solid that they come unstuck from time and just are great.