Right down to its unassuming, faded photograph and typewriter font front cover, The Wave Pictures’ Instant Coffee Baby is the kind of record you find in a dollar bin and buy because it’s an English band from the mid-80s that you’ve never heard of it and it looks like it might be okay and what the hell it’s only a dollar. Of course, Wave Pictures is a contemporary English band, and you’ll probably be paying full price for Instant Coffee Baby for at least the next few months. But like those forgotten dusty sides, even though it has one great single in “Leave the Scene Behind,” Instant Coffee Baby is destined to remain a footnote dear to only a few people and won’t come down from your shelf very often.
It may, however, remind you of some other records that you’ve been meaning to listen to again for a while now. The most immediate comparison is Violent Femmes; Wave Pictures is far more subdued, except on “Leave the Scene Behind,” but the roominess of the drums and Dave Tattersall’s almost-as-manic-as-Gordon-Gano’s vocals certainly recreate the vibe, as the guitar chimes away and the bass bounces along just like in your favorite Feelies songs. Perhaps because the music is so unambitious, most of the songs here try to work their way into you heart through wit, and every once in a while you can pick out something clever through the dense wordiness in each, but there’s never a moment as instantly affecting as anything by the more sonically adventurous and just simply better Jens Lekman or Belle & Sebastian, other obvious touchstones.
The greatest pleasure in Instant Coffee Baby might just be the feeling that you’ve discovered some long-forgotten artifact of musical archaeology. Which is a nice feeling, but doesn’t make a lackluster album shine any brighter.