Review Summary: Music to snog the girl of your best friend to, not knowing whether it's the best moment of your life, or the worst.
Sometimes in life you just have to doff your hat to the mainstream. The temptation is to dismiss this glitzy, disco-indie fest of an album for the anodyne and calculated contrivance that it surely is. But give it a few listens and the immaculate hooks and glossy production become sweetly addictive. Yes this is pop music, but with a barbed twist, reinvigorated rather than originative, from the posturing of 1980s new romantics, such as Ultravox, Spandau Ballet and ubiquitous substance-era New Order, to 1990s Italian disco lento, trance and house. Throw in more than a smattering of boyband pop and the question arises what exactly it is that Fenech-Soler have brought to the party.
Maybe it’s more indefinable qualities such as exuberance and even euphoria. From the frenetic funk stomp of opener Battlefields
to the hypnotic electro trance of Lies
, the sinister bass sludge of Golden Sun
to the sepia-tinged dramatics of Stop and Stare
, what we have here is a giddy confection of oversized choruses shouting out a statement that life should be lived for the moment, an opportunity to be seized and wrung till it gives up its very last drop.
But it is Ben Duffy and his breathy, earnest vocals that lead us away from this hedonistic primordial soup, lyrics laced with cynicism. “There they are, holding hands, but behind the smiles and diamonds: lies, deceit and doubt”. Perhaps his caustic undercurrent is what gives the album its edge. While his band mates are over-indulging themselves in this Ibizan idyll and having fun, fun, fun, he remains the archetypal party pooper sulking in the corner. “Lovers, lovers, I see them everywhere, it makes me sick.”
The tempo is relentless, squelching synthesisers, balearic beats, serenading sirens; a manifesto to vibrancy and energy; a whirling celebration of youth. Yet running so fast, it also feels like this world is slipping. Respite comes towards the end of the album with piano ballad Stone Bridges
, as if signalling a bleary-eyed trudge homewards in the early hours, whilst closer Walk Alone
rakes over the embers of what has been lost, swooping and subsiding like an intermittent hangover, plaintive and forlorn. “If I call out your name, will you come"”
These odes to lust and desire, of betraying and being betrayed, they may have been done since time began, but that doesn’t diminish their relevance. This is music to snog the girl of your best friend in the epileptic darkness of the dance floor, someone you always wanted but could never have, not knowing whether it’s the best moment in your life, or the worst.