‘At Best Cuckold’, is intended as a hopelessly romantic album. It’s hopeless in that the lyrics read like exerpts from a scribbled diary hidden under a mattress, and there’s something deliberately overwrought about the amount of lofty texturing going on at every turn. The persistent ambition and craving for texture that dominates, though, might just be the heat melting down Avi Buffalo’s waxy wings as he flies towards the sun. While ‘Avi Buffalo’ was a creepy, frustrated and self-indulgent debut in a way that felt believable, the successor doesn’t quite sit right.
Placing a finger on why is harder. The writing on ‘At Best Cuckold’ is consistent, yet moments like ‘Overwhelmed With Pride’ especially stand out, not only for their quality, but because they expose the relative emotional placidity of most of the record. The album title, with all its weird, fetishy associations, promises something lusted up and a little bit perverse; a combination that Avi brewed up to perfection on ‘Where’s Your Dirty Mind’. The closest it comes – pardon the unfortunate pun - is ‘Found Blind’; a song which appears to be about a quiet and slightly lonely night in with some smutty magazines and a pack of Kleenex. Next to ‘She Is Seventeen’, another song that hits the balance between stripped back tenderness and overblown dramatics with careful precision, swelling and crackling despite the components clambering for space, it just looks a bit clumsy.
It may well be a curse having to follow on from ‘Avi Buffalo’m and admittedly, it’s the shadow of the debut that makes ‘At Best Cuckold’ seem full of hot air, and a little deflated in comparison. There’s no doubt that the arrangement on this album is complex, like musical puff pastry; rich buttery layers of string samples, crooning brass and noodling guitar licks at every turn. It’d take at least a day to shake a stick at all the overdubbing, too. The crackling lo-fi unease of Avi Buffalo’s love-struck debut is largely ousted in favour of a cleaner, more confident sheen, and the offshoot is that ‘At Best Cuckold’ is so highly polished that it feels a little lacking in the kind of blindsided naivety that comes hand in hand with romance.