It still feels subversive when a pop song built on elements often used to depict faltering or collapsed romances turns out to be about something far more politically charged. “Who did this,” a standout from Norwegian quintet Pre-Echo‘s debut EP Consider This, achieves this trick with simultaneous bombast and elegance. Its delay-drenched guitar strums, melancholic but jolting vocals, rustling bass, and variously distant and erupting percussion suggest a traditionally forlorn love tale, but “Who did this” is, very unsubtly, about climate change, who bears responsibility for it, what it will do to us, and what, if anything, can be done to stop it.
“Who did this” is utterly no-bullshit about how we got here and what exactly comprises here. Whereas love songs can be shrouded in imagery that’s as gorgeous as it is vague, Pre-Echo opts to tell it like it is. Lyrics, sung in vocalist Andrea Louise Horstad’s generous, lightly-accented mezzo-soprano, include “We didn’t respond fast enough/or react the way we should have/We laughed it off, and then we said/’Poor them who have to fix this mess'”; “High on plastic/water levels rising/and the fish are dying”; All we can do is watch each other/vanish with the world we thought we knew/Stop crying.”
In Pre-Echo’s eyes, we’re past the point of no return on climate change. As scientists try desperately to warn global leaders of our impending doom, Pre-Echo’s standpoint feels more and more like the truth and less and less like panic.
The band, in its ire about climate change, fits in some truths about human nature top, in the same ways that romance songs can. Aside its analysis of where we stand in regards to climate change, Pre-Echo sings lyrics that actually could fit in a romance song, such as “We could’ve helped you/no, we should’ve tried/but all in all, we felt comfortable”; “Who did this?/You know we/need someone to take the blame”; “I only try to do what’s best for me.”
Pre-Echo is telling listeners that, no matter how good of people we are, we’re all to blame, and we haven’t done enough to resist the immense, destructive capitalistic burden that society puts on people and thereby the environment. We need to do so much to look out for ourselves every day that we can’t unite to properly save ourselves.
Is it an utterly cynical viewpoint? Sure, but over pop soundscapes as gentle and warm as the ones that Pre-Echo paint on “Who did this,” it’s reassuring to know that people are alone in neither blame nor fear.