Pepe Deluxe
Queen of the Wave


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
September 16th, 2012 | 19 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An ambitious rock opera that remembers to be fun.

Queen of the Wave starts inauspiciously, with its near-titular opening track "Queenswave" - the music's pretty great and it's got a nice melody, but the lyrics (the opening couplet runs 'let me sing a song for you/let me spin a tale that's true') is reminiscent of every dreadful, everything-in-excess lame rock opera you've ever heard. At this point, the album could just as easily be a Tommy-style stinker or a Hazards of Love-esque masterpiece, or something merely passable like S.F. Sorrow.

The answer is none of the above. It's a lot more interesting than that.

Pepe Deluxé's sound is a treasure, the kind of concoction every band should aspire to, because it's very easy to enjoy while simultaneously quite hard to understand or get a real grip on. The list of music that informs what they do is as impressive as what they do with it; they're just as happy to draw from the cod-Medieval feel of a band like Blackmore's Night as they are to indulge in the psychedelic whimsy of '60s outliers like the UK Nirvana, and they offset that feyness with robust classic pop songwriting. They're never afraid to drop in a dirty, distorted synth either, a trick they may well have learned from Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi-era Flaming Lips.

It's an impressive balancing act between influences, one that stretches out to include a few surf guitars here and there, a filmic sweep that feels like it references both James Bond and Quinten Tarantino's film soundtracks, and occasionally, the kind of Baroque arrangements that the Sufjan Stevens of Illinois and the Nick Drake of Bryter Layter might have appreciated. Comparisons have been made in some quarters to Janelle Monae, and while they sound literally nothing alike, it's a testament to not only the ambition of Pepe Deluxe, but their ability to do so many things at once without ever forgetting about the melody, that the link has even occurred to anybody.

It so easy to be impressed and swept away by the music that it's easy to forget, or even not notice in the first place, that Queen of the Wave is a rock opera. But yes, it is a rock opera, and yes, it's just as self-indulgent as the best (and worst) of them at heart, despite never actually sounding all that self-indulgent. It has, for instance, around a dozen vocalists, although the temptation while listening to it is to lump all of them into either 'male' or 'female' and just hear it as two singers (the voices are nowhere near as distinct as, say, Anais Mitchell's Hadestown), while the libretto (if that word is appropriate for rock opera) comes from a 19th century text about the fictional state of Atlantis. It all sounds like typically weighty, po-faced prog conceits, but there's a real sense of playful humour about all of this, as song titles like the children's story-referencing "Iron Giant" and the obvious pun "Riders on the First Ark" should suggest.

Queen of the Wave is a record that takes on more challenges and obstacles that is either necessary or sane, but it triumphs in the face of all of them. There are plenty of albums that attempt this much, and plenty that do everything right, but few that do both at the same time, as this does. Dense, satisfying, and fun - this deserves to go down as one of the peaks of baroque pop in recent years.



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user ratings (58)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Sam Feldman (3)
This is truly mind-blowing stuff....

Jonny Hunter CONTRIBUTOR (4.5)
An unforgettable, extravagant trip through the inner workings of a surreal world....


Comments:Add a Comment 
greg84
Staff Reviewer
September 16th 2012


7417 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

This album has been overlooked on here for way too long. Awesome review!

Digging: Dope Body - Lifer

Rail
September 16th 2012


538 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I've avoided listening to this since about a week after I got it, because I just know that the euphoric feeling I got from it the first few times will wear off like a packet of Parma Violets.

Digging: Eric's Trip - Purple Blue

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
September 16th 2012


7357 Comments


Been meaning to check this out for ages.

Steoandnoodles
September 16th 2012


2832 Comments


This album is bonkers. It's crazy!

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
September 16th 2012


2714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fuck yeh, album's the absolute shit.

danielito19
September 16th 2012


6035 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I don't really see anything in the review about what they sound like, it was just kind of a bunch of name-dropping and repetition of the phrase "rock opera."

Digging: Viper the Rapper - You'll Cowards Don't Even Smoke Crack

chambered49
September 16th 2012


1727 Comments


my flaming thirst and thats all that matters here

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 17th 2012


15743 Comments


"TOMMY STYLE STINKER" YOU CAN EAT MY DICK

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
September 17th 2012


23900 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I should probably enjoy this more but I just don't

Digging: RATKING - So It Goes

scissorlocked
September 17th 2012


3511 Comments


album is fun!

Digging: Traumprinz - All The Things

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
September 17th 2012


6486 Comments


And all over the place.

Digging: Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers

kingsoby1
Emeritus
September 17th 2012


4950 Comments


been digging this lately

chambered49
September 18th 2012


1727 Comments


8. In the Cave
9. My Flaming Thirst




2 best songs

chambered49
September 22nd 2012


1727 Comments


ur not the one i the one i want want

Shahrukhkhan
September 24th 2012


1 Comments


best songs
Packers movers delhi
Packers movers noida
Housekeeping services Delhi
Security guard services


danielito19
September 24th 2012


6035 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

wat

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
September 24th 2012


16056 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

props to greg84 for playing me some of this in plug.dj, really like it

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

danielito19
November 14th 2013


6035 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

bumping album bc perf

Havey
December 18th 2013


9699 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

still rules woop



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