Review Summary: Fiercely upbeat and drenched in charisma.
Digitize the grandiose pop symphonies of Aim And Ignite
and dim the lights a little, all for the sake of sounding even huger than "Be Calm" strived for. Some Nights
finds the Queen/Beach Boys pop of The Format
's late career and Fun.'s debut record infused with beats of the bass-heavy variety; if Nate Ruess was too exuberant for you on previous outings, you'll find nothing approaching dampened enthusiasm here. The pop-rock band - rounded off by Jack Antonoff (Steel Train
) and Andrew Dost (Anathallo
) - somehow find a context for the enormity of lead single "We Are Young", surrounding it with songs so extroverted it should be uncomfortable; it never is.
Rarely, anyway: the bass on "It Gets Better" is, genuinely, too heavy; the vocoder sections of closer "Stars" are challenging at best. But away from these qualms already, because they are the only blemishes on a gorgeous soundscape and stellar songwriting exhibition which lives off its own indelible charisma and builds brilliance out of its ideas. These compositions are, when distilled, no less layered (really
) and decisive than Aim And Ignite
's; the temptation to assume that electronics render depth a second-fiddle notion is rebuffed by the unique character of tracks like "All Alone" and the record's title-track.
Throughout, Ruess puts in the most commanding and charming performance of his career to date, whether he's backed by a choir, synthesized by vocoders, or left to his own raw, dramatic devices. On "All Alright", he exhausts himself - and I know, I know, that I put up a front, but maybe just this once, let me keep this one?
- only to reclaim his own salvation on "One Foot" as he declares: I will die for my own sins, thanks a lot; we'll rise up ourselves, thanks for nothing at all!
If, from those snippets, Some Nights
sounds like a heavy listen, the beauty is that it somehow manages to be both weighty and carefree. The buzz of songs like "Stars" is nothing close to vapid, but nor is it so self-involved as to lose its polish.
You can find Queen and Kanye West bursting out of Some Nights
's sweeping chords and harmonies - and you don't even have to listen all that hard - but when all ten tracks are delivered with this much conviction it hardly seems relevant; the energy and personality which flood out of every melody give this album its own stamp of authority. It tips over into excess at rare moments, but even as you can hear those moments happening, they provoke grins inside and out. Cynics will find the optimism too optimistic and the tunes too tuneful and the anthems too anthemic. Fuck 'em; they've just forgotten what it's like to be young.