Review Summary: Nostalgia is dead. Long live nostalgia.
Over the past few years I've had several conversations with other 30-something friends about whether the internet, in general, and YouTube, in particular, have killed nostalgia. Back before the internet you couldn't access your childhood memories at a moment's notice from wherever you were. Once upon a time, movies like American Graffitti
, Dazed and Confused
and Almost Famous
, and TV shows like Happy Days
, The Wonder Years
, and That '70s Show
, were guaranteed to become hits by mining the rose-tinted childhoods of 30 and 40-somethings for material.
However, nostalgia seems to have stalled in the '80s and maybe the early '90s. It appears that Generation-X-ers and Millenials are not nearly as nostalgic for their adolescence in the late-'90s and early '00s as Baby Boomers were for theirs. Apparently, we all agreed to be nostalgic for the '80s and left it at that. Perhaps this is the reason why Synthwave/Retrowave appears to have a such a surprisingly long shelf-life for a microgenre.
Gunship manages to keep the nostalgia fresh. Despite Alex Westaway, Dan Haigh and Alex Gingell knowing exactly how to pull on those nostalgic heartstrings just so, they aren't one-trick ponies—which should have been obvious from their other project(s). Dark All Day
sounds and feels like evolution from Gunship's self-titled debut album. The haunting John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream-influenced synthpop now contains slight elements of industrial music and a more overtly dark and aggressive tone.
The change isn’t drastic; most of the songs here like “When You Grow Up, Your Heart Dies”, “Rise the Midnight Girl”, and the Ready Player One
-themed “Art3mis & Parzival”, still occupy that cult-80s-soundtrack meets midnight-drive-through-Neo-Tokyo sweet spot that is Gunship’s, and I guess all good Synthwave’s, stock-in-trade. However, songs like the title-track, “The Drone Racing League”, and “Cyber City”, have beats and basslines that are a bit more aggressive and hard-hitting, and are punctuated by slabs of distorted synth-guitars that have a distinctly more ‘90s feel to them and feel like they’re meant more for a goth club than a midnight drive.
This stylistic diversity is mainly what sets Dark All Day
apart from its predecessor. Gunship’s debut album wasn’t a sonically diverse album by any stretch of the imagination, with the only real change in pace and instrumentation being provided by Carpenter Brut’s superb remix of “Tech Noir”. That album, however, was supported by the strength of its songwriting and the sheer appeal of the sound the band had created. On Dark All Day
, Westaway and co. provide the changeups in pace and tone on their own, with saxophone and synth-guitar solos and more uptempo danceable beats than there were on Gunship
. Some of this experimentation may not quite hit the mark. The warmth and immediacy of the sax solo on “Dark All Day”, for instance, seems slightly at odds with the somewhat cold and haunting vibe of the rest of the song. While this album is, for better or worse, less consistent than its predecessor, Gunship’s strength in writing gorgeous melodies and complementing them with shimmering synths still manages to shine through, making Dark All Day
every bit as captivating as its predecessor and proving that nostalgia isn't dead just yet.