Empire Of The Sun
Walking On A Dream


3.0
good

Review

by Davey Boy STAFF
January 30th, 2009 | 418 replies | 35,291 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Similar in sound to MGMT, the comparison between the 2 duos also holds to this debut album being an unapologetically hit and miss affair that contains 3 excellent standouts.

Timing can be everything when it comes to music and it can often be a two-edged sword. For example; an artist “ahead of their time” might be viewed positively by critics, but negatively by record labels that would prefer albums to be sold now! Another instance of this phenomenon is when one artist breaks worldwide, just before another similar artist records an LP. The positive here is that the initial band opens up a larger audience for the next… The negative is the perception of being a copy-cat and not as groundbreaking as those who came before them.

To say that Australia’s Empire Of The Sun bear similarities to the “IT” band of 2008 - MGMT - is an understatement. Firstly, they are both duos who do not exactly dress like the average person would. More striking though is their musical common ground since they both perform electronica-laced psychedelic pop that is synth-heavy but includes portions of both electric and acoustic guitars. Yet, for the Australian duo, it is simply a meeting point of the collaborator’s main bands; Luke Steele’s The Sleepy Jackson and Nick Littlemore’s Pnau.

The similarities between the two artists do not end there however, since a common criticism of MGMT’s ‘Oracular Spectacular’ was that it was front-loaded and had three great songs plus a bunch of filler. In all honesty, the same weakness can be pointed at Empire Of The Sun’s debut full-length release ‘Walking On A Dream’. Considering that ‘Time To Pretend’, ‘Electric Feel’ and ‘Kids’ were all prominent on many ‘Best singles of 2008’ lists, one feels that the only reason they were not joined by the 2 lead singles off ‘Walking On A Dream’ was because of the home country of both bands.

The title track and lead single here may be simple to the extreme, but it has an instantly likeable groove that ingrains itself in the mind with a nice dynamic between Steele’s distorted and falsetto vocals. Arguably bettering such a terrific song is the not entirely dissimilar 2nd single ‘We Are The People’. Containing acoustic flourishes, the greater length of this track allows the superb falsetto chorus payoff to be held back on (approximately at the 90 second mark) for additional effect. The bottom line is that if you liked MGMT’s singles, you should also like both of these.

The two other cuts included within the opening quartet of tracks on ‘Walking On A Dream’ are both perfectly acceptable, especially the effectively semi-haunting atmospherics of opener ‘Standing On The Shore’. However, from track 5 onwards, Empire Of The Sun are unlikely to hold the interest of many listeners as they go over the top and practically lose the plot. The rot begins with ‘Delta Bay’, a horrible mess that comes complete with unintelligible vocals. It is then followed up by ‘Country’, which is an instrumental piece that has similarities with Angelo Badalamenti’s ‘Twin Peaks Theme’ and would have made for a nice little interlude, had it not become tediously overlong as the duration stretches past the five minute mark!

While the remaining four songs all contain glimpses of something worthwhile, three of them are pretty much filler. Thankfully, it pays to keep listening for ‘Swordfish Hotkiss Night’, which arguably saves the album. A funky cut that is one-part dance-floor anthem and one-part hip-hop piece, everything just gels on this track. From the numerous vocal techniques used to the multi-layered musical components, it all comes together so impressively that it surprises that there is only one such song on here. Of course, as you can imagine from the odd title, the lyrics are pretty strange and sci-fi based, but that is pretty much the norm throughout the LP (possibly excluding the corny love-song closer ‘Without You’).

When all is said and done, ‘Walking On A Dream’ is an almost unapologetically hit and miss affair which clearly shows a huge amount of potential for what would seem like a natural pairing. Precocious, ambitious and definitely zany, Steele especially allows his personality to shine through on the project. When they are on, they are very good, as their relaxing – yet strangely dance-worthy – grooves seem almost effortless. Yet, way too often, the duo simply bite off more than they can chew, meaning that when they are off, a 2nd listen almost seems like a chore.

Recommended Tracks: Walking On A Dream, We Are The People & Swordfish Hotkiss Night.



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user ratings (178)
Chart.
3.1
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 30th 2009



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I thought this would be a rather timely review due to the prominent position of the band’s 2 singles on Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2008 and also since the album will be released in the UK & Europe in 3 weeks time.

Willie
Moderator
January 30th 2009



15894 Comments


Nice review. I've never heard these guys or MGMT.

Digging: Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse - 20th Year Anniversary

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 30th 2009



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks Trey. Both duos are definitely an acquired taste. I suppose the best thing for you to do is to listen to the 3 standout singles from MGMT's 'Oracular Spectacular' and go from there.

Willie
Moderator
January 30th 2009



15894 Comments


I will do that, then (when I get off work).

natey
January 30th 2009



4170 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i heard this was good camp & fantasy synthpop This Message Edited On 01.30.09

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 30th 2009



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"fantasy synth-pop" is actually a really good description of the sound & themes here Natey.
"Camp"? Hmmm, I'm not so sure about that.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
January 30th 2009



3762 Comments


Definitely camp. We were just complaing the other day how fast nova picked this up. I havn't heard this in full, but Nick Littlemore is a production genius. You heard Ladyhawkes album Davey?

Digging: Towers - Bel Air Highrise Plantation

Vooligan
January 30th 2009



3541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

From the one song i've heard, these guys are really good, love The Sleepy Jackson.
Oh, and good review once again Davey.This Message Edited On 01.30.09

Douchebag
January 30th 2009



3624 Comments


Sleepy Jackson I can't stand them/him.
His music doesn't do much for me, plus I saw him on Tv complaining about how hard his job is.

What I wouldn't give to be creating albums and playing music for a living!

As for these guys, Haven't heard them, but MGMT isn't really my thing so It's unlikely I will look into it. Good review as usual.

Captain North
January 30th 2009



6779 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I thought they weren't that similar to MGMT musically, but thats because I really don't like MGMT...which is probably weird because I like these guys.

Vooligan
January 30th 2009



3541 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

they the wierdest video clip i have ever seen, soo awesome.

Waior
January 30th 2009



11425 Comments


This is a fantastic review. Well summarized.

AtavanHalen
January 30th 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Way too much time spent comparing them to MGMT; which I never even thought of apart from Luke Steele opening for them.
Otherwise sexy.

taylormemer
January 30th 2009



4913 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This was good, but not amazing. Naturally Walking on a Dream is pretty fantastic, but otherwise I don't feel the need to listen to this much.

timbo8
January 30th 2009



618 Comments


what an absurd album cover

natey
January 30th 2009



4170 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

it makes me think of the Golden Compass.

marksellsuswallets
January 30th 2009



4848 Comments


That album cover is nauseatingly obnoxious...

Happymeal
January 30th 2009



330 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

How is "Half Mast" not a highlight song? What these guys did right on in this album is ten times better than what MGMT did on theirs.

Fugue
January 30th 2009



7352 Comments


Not heard of these guys but if they are like MGMT then they must be good.

AtavanHalen
January 30th 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh hardy har har.
Seriously, check out all of Luke Steele's works. The man is brilliant.



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