Review Summary: DeBacker gives pop a twist, but he's on the verge of losing the reins.
Wally De Backer may just be any Australian man, struggling his way through the ups and downs of everyday life, but when he steps up onstage, he’s Gotye--a pop singer-songwriter and winner of the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Music Awards. De Backer has already released two albums under the Gotye moniker--Boardface
and Like Drawing Blood
. Both releases carried a fair mix of artistic, avant-garde pop and just plain pop (mostly still leaning toward the artistic side). Strange electronic world-music was not foreign to De Backer in this time period. But Gotye’s brand new album, Making Mirrors
, is a strong contender for a focus on the simple grooves of 80’s pop music. Think Phil Collins voice meets the soul of James Brown and then collaborates with Hall & Oates.
According to Wikipedia, Gotye is pronounced “gore-ti-yeah,” and that properly sums up the aesthetic that De Backer has brought to the table with Gotye. It’s simplistic, it’s groovy, but it’s intriguing, like a car wreck that you can’t take your eyes off of. De Backer’s vocal dexterity is one of the first aspects that sticks out on this album. When he teams up with New Zealand artist, Kimbra Johnson, on the popular “Somebody That I Used to Know,” they portray an arguing couple on the last threads of their relationship. The back and forth between their duet at the end is moving in its sincerity and power. And then the tide changes on the upbeat “I Feel Better” where De Backer cries out like he’s Bill Withers on “Lean on Me,” singing, “And I feel better / Better / Better than before / I feel better / Better/ Now I’m not down anymore.”
Beyond De Backer’s vocal performance, his range of instruments is fairly straightforward with a few eclectic moments. Guitars and drums reign supreme throughout the album as a whole, but staccato synths often make their guest appearance mixed with others, such as trumpets on the head-bobbing track “In Your Light.” Gotye’s inclination to the artistic and strange comes out in songs like “State of the Art” where dripping saxophones mix with an organ and De Backer’s voice sung through a reader much like Stephen Hawking’s speech.
Thematically, Making Mirrors
thrives on love and loss--not too far off from his 80’s influence. But with that comes a little bit of an unfocused approach. One song is an argument between lovers, another is about brand new days and then the next seems to be a discussion on the significance of technology and modernity. The album begins to feel a little lost in its own ambition. But then again, that’s what makes this album so much fun. It's about reveling in De Backer’s enthusiasm and willingness to explore options. The adjacency of the last two songs, arena-rock-esque “Save Me” and the jazzy “Bronte,” illustrate De Backer’s drive with his Gotye project. It’s fun and
interesting; just the right combination for good pop music.