Third album Face the Brutality is the Norwegian duo’s (Fredrik Saroea and Ketil Mosnes) first LP since 2009’s Red and first output since their musical (featuring 87 live musicians), helpfully called The Musical in 2015. What have they been doing?
Trumped *cough* as ‘an album for the bored and bitter survivors of 2017’ this sonic-tonic arrives at the right time, Summer’s coming and a soundtrack is required. Any posing pasticheur can steal from the past and mimic the moods (yeah, you, Mark ‘trans-Atlant-dick’ Ronson), however, sincerity cannot be bought, it takes true talent to relocate and update.
Kicking off with the Linn drum-sound of Prince’s ‘Let’s pretend we’re married’ ‘BMX’ is a synthetique sojourn through the circuitry of the (mis)remembered 80s. The titular bicycle symbolising the bunny-hopping of the bouncing backbeat.
‘Ruffle Shuffle’ appropriates 70s multimillion-seller/90s charity shop filler Peter Frampton’s wah-wah guitar coming wah-alive, Saroea laconically delivering his observations a la Modern Lover Jonathan Richman. Hypnotically hip-swinging writhing that references The Goonies’ Chunk’s desperate dance.
‘Sense of Reason’ mines the punky-funky antics of !!! with a call and response duet replete with a breezy coda. The outstanding ‘Laugh in the Face of Darkness’ recalls Noir Désir as fronted by INXS’s Michael Hutchence (admittedly two fateful examples). Lyrically littered with a litany of English idioms, proverbs and expressions (‘bad news travels fast … a nod is as good a wink to blind horse … keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’), an idea that sounds like folly, but, works a treat as a solemn glamour permeates the moody hues. A bittersweet synthony.
‘Everything’ has the millennial studio sheen of posh-popsters Phoenix, minus the desperate acclamation their music craves. This has a soaring chorus that offers reassurances through communication as ‘tomorrow’s the day we stop lying’. A fitting mantra in an era of ‘fake’ news/fake ‘news’.
Plato’s tragi-tale of Icarus’s flight of fancy is addressed on ‘Feathers and Wax’: if you’re going to broach solar’s power then you’d better have the right gear. Ergo: study the classics, avoid the death basket.
The spirit of Perry Farrell courses through ‘Beautiful Monster’, a grandiloquent rocking riff articulating the ‘shedding of skin’ as layers reveal truth and truth betrays perception.
‘Invitation to Love’ is Movement-era New Order, a plea to put off to tomorrow what you think you want to do today. Patience is a virtue with the rewards in wait … a Vangelis finale of blade running.
Heads are talking again (Red’s ‘True Stories was comprised solely of Talking Heads song titles) on ‘Outta Here’ which reclaims the heart-land from The War on Drugs and other one-track phoneys retreading the same old boreds. Byrne, baby, Byrne, this disco’s eternal.
Climaxer ‘Darkness at the edge of the pit’ channels Ohio rock-deconstructionists Devo in a thrashing evocation of the perils/temptations of the mosh-pit, enticing and off-putting. Just don’t tell Health & Safety, but, do tell Lawyers 4 U.