Aside from being a fantastic way to score a sponsorship deal with Gillette, tennis is a game best played with two people. It is appropriate, then, that Tennis (the band) is based around a married couple: Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley. This should immediately set alarm bells ringing in the head of anyone unlucky enough to know the back stories of Sonny and Cher, The White Stripes (sort of) or Abba – or indeed anyone who dislikes cosiness, tweeness or self-indulgence. The husband-and-wife band is never a great idea – it tends to result in either total self-destruction, or a kind of suffocating loveliness that can do nothing but boast of the wonderful love that these people share.
Being a grumpy, misanthropic git, this is anathema to me, so I approached Tennis with a sense of foreboding. I need not have worried. Tennis may write love songs of a kind, but they seem to be more wistful than boastful: talking not of the perfection of their relationship, but instead of the sacrifices and difficulties faced in love. It’s quite touching, but not exactly musically mould-breaking. Indeed, anyone who enjoys Grizzly Bear will recognise the stabbing piano on ‘Origins’.
Tennis draws on a couple of indie trends to set themselves apart from the crowd. The first is a ‘vintage’ style of production that leaves a lot of the music sounding like something that might occur had the Beatles and the Beach Boys collaborated. This works rather well up to a point. The feeling of satisfaction when you realise that the opening guitar on ‘Robin’ is only a hair’s breadth away from being the opening to ‘Please Please Me’ is tempered by the fact that the whole effect is a little fake – like a Polaroid picture taken using an iPhone App.
Tennis do, however, do the slacker ‘thing’ properly. They are laid back enough to be medically pronounced as comatose, but not self-consciously so. Not for them are the obnoxious stylings of Best Coast or Wavves. This is genuinely laid back indie pop, which, whether faux-vintage or not, is definitely worth your time.