Review Summary: Anthony Gonzalez may be a dreamer, but he's not the only one.
There’s a point a little more than a fourth of the way into Anthony Gonzalez’ latest art-pop manifesto where it all starts to make sense. The day-glo synths, the cavalcade of gated drums and chintzy keyboards, the near-slavish devotion to ‘80s pop tropes – it’s not just flattery, not merely a homage meant to evoke the sounds of the past that 2008’s Saturdays=Youth
satisfactorily accomplished. It’s fitting that it’s not Gonzalez who lays out Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’s
mission, but a young child. “Do you want to play with me" / We can be a whole group of friends,” the child asks on “Raconte – Moi Une Histoire,” and it doesn’t matter whether this kid is male or female, where he is from or what her intentions are. “We would be hundreds, thousands, millions / the biggest group of friends the world has ever seen / jumping and laughing forever / it would be great, right"” It’s an undoubtedly immature statement, but that’s what makes it so perfect. By stripping away the concerns of adults, of age and background and history, it becomes primal and universal: love and hope. Has there ever been a better argument for music"
A cynic would see this as cheesy, much like Gonzalez’s musical influences, or suggest a clever metaphor for drug use (or a blunt one – “blue becomes red and red becomes blue / and your mommy suddenly becomes your daddy / and everything looks like a giant cupcake.” Kids – aren’t they just the darndest"). Those people are missing the point. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
is a classic bedroom pop record, but not for its Breakfast Club
-inspired musical scenery, nor for its confessional attitude. It’s bedroom pop in the sense that it’s constantly dreaming – of a better time, of a better world, of a better place where that group of a million friends jumping and laughing forever isn’t so ridiculous. It’s a tribute to the music of Gonzalez’ youth that still sounds fresh and vital in ways that its own inspirations never did. It’s a celebration of that same youth and that state of mind, a wide-eyed look at what could be. Most of all, it’s Gonzalez’s imagination run wild, and in that respect, it is a colossal achievement.
Could Gonzalez have trimmed the fat down a little" The double-album conceit is almost never necessary, and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
is no exception. The various interludes are some of the most interesting bits of music on the record, but their length is what does them in. Given Gonzalez’s seemingly effortless way of creating a pop hook out of nothing, it would have been fascinating to see the sketches of “Train To Pluton” or “Another Wave From You” develop further. Instead, they’re simply teases: beautiful, gorgeous ones at that, but still unnecessary to the overall arc of the album. The 22-song length is intimidating, and Gonzalez never gives you a chance to catch your breath – pop anthem after pop anthem is the order of the day here, massive multi-tracked walls of sound and spacey synths that stretch on into fields of reverb. Occasionally there is a comedown; the lovely minor-key “Splendor” comes to mind, so oddly placed between “Another Wave From You”’s cascading build-up and the upbeat guitar pop of “Year One, One UFO;” and “Wait,” where an acoustic guitar does more for the song than any of Gonzalez’s surging keyboards. But these are the exceptions that prove the rule – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
is, quite frankly, a titanic record, and Gonzalez would have it no other way.
It has to be, of course. If Saturdays=Youth
was M83’s take on the ‘80s, all those wonderful spoken word bits recalling the best of ‘80s schlock and the synths the best of that era’s vapidity and material glamor, then Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is
the ‘80s. At times here, Gonzalez sounds almost like a relic – his yelp recalls Peter Gabriel, and his penchant for bombastic choruses and bigger, better hooks emphasizes the best of soon-forgotten ‘80s pop music. The sequence that kicks off the album, from “Intro” to “Reunion,” is some of the best pop music ever made, ‘00s or ‘80s or otherwise. The saxophone that closes out epic first single “Midnight City” would have to be considered intentionally ironic if anyone other than M83 had included it – here, it just sounds so damn right
. Elsewhere, it’s the little things that pop out at you, even over the walls of sparkling production that Gonzalez has so meticulously crafted – the funky bass that propels “Claudia Lewis;” the effervescent keyboard line that weaves its way over the top of “Steve McQueen”’s noise pop; the way Gonzalez, never the most powerful of vocalists, holds his own on a duet with Zola Jesus on “Intro.”
Yes, for all the gloss and layers of sound thrown onto track after track here, sometimes to excess, M83 have done this before. Saturdays=Youth
was just as brilliant in its conceptual execution and in its painstakingly detailed production work. What separates Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
from that record and the rest of M83’s catalog is in its consistency, something that a double album would seem to make impossible. Yet every song here hits close to home, to the record’s goal of celebrating the past by creating music that resonates so perfectly in the present. Few people could so totally ape the sounds of a bygone (not to mention much-maligned) era and come out with something that sounds so pulse-poundingly fresh as Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
. In its execution, the record is near flawless, an essential distillation of the sounds of Gonzalez’s youth, nostalgia and melancholy and happiness all mixed up into a sparkling pop stew. In its spirit, it’s incredibly heartening, the musical equivalent of inspiring people to think back on their past, their childhood, that one moment where playing together as one wasn’t such a laughable notion. It’s hopeful and heartbreaking all at once. You don’t have to have lived through the ‘80s to appreciate Gonzalez’s aim – you just have to have lived.