“We weren’t acquainted before but it sounded fun”, The Ruby Suns’ primary schmoozer Ryan McPhun drools over the top of Desert Of Pop – the spangly opener to the California-via-Auckland-now via-Oslo songsmith’s fourth full-length, Christopher. In the backdrop, an ’80s-indebted disco fling unfurls to expose the flamboyance of George Michael gyrating wildly against a Parliament Hill sodden in sunrise. “Like a birthday boy – giddy and excited”, it’s an uncontainable reintroduction to an itself irrepressibly fizzy record – albeit one which initially sounds not dissimilar to a thinly veiled strand of Wham! revivalism.
Though the initial whack of gimmicky, retrograde electropop indulgence threatens to suffuse itself throughout as the naff synthetic strings of In Real Life swing into vibrancy. Had the Village People ever beheld even an atom of subtlety between ‘em they could, and surely would’ve enrobed themselves in an aesthetic this unabashedly euphoric if, at heart, inherently tawdry. In keeping with this unapologetically ’80s vibe, its chorus recalls to an almost eerie degree Ottawan’s perennially haunting Europop smash D.I.S.C.O., whilst the typographically challenged Dramatikk flickers with glimmers of Mercury and the arena-rupturing grandiosity of Springsteen’s ’84 LP, Born in the U.S.A. All this retroactive influence is of course refracted through a prismatic sliver of the slightly more contemporary: Kingfisher Call Me, with its sweeping vocal akin to spilt gold dust diffusing out into the atmosphere, assumes the songwriting intricacies of Owen Pallett and veneers them in the inoffensive sheen of Fenech-Soler’s eponymous début. It’s like Everything Everything shorn of the woolly, abstract lyricisms and instead tarted up in flimsy exclamations of emancipation. “Dry your eyes is what to do/ Don’t listen to anyone except for you”, etcetera.
Christopher is apparently a breakup album, although it doesn’t sound much like one. Or at least not the ones I’ve become acclimatised, and with that by and largely speaking immune to. Rush, for instance, veritably bursts with sequinned optimism and although the Christopher in question is but an allegory representing that overzealous inner adolescent who’s up for anything and responsible for nothing, you’d be forgiven for thinking (or rather I’ll hope you’ll forgive me for having thought) McPhun may have come around to an alternative sexual outlook. Starlight, too, is like a hyperactive 18–30 rework of any which ebullient Hot Chip sizzler. It’s camp as an homoerotic Mediterranean getaway though inadvertent or otherwise, if only a musical reorientation then it’s one which suits him – and suits him best on the laid-back Balearia of Futon Fortress. A breathy, and with that overtly airy synthpop jingle of sorts, it’s a tingly thing irrefutably inspired by McPhun’s (one can only imagine) temporary relocation to the fjords and exorbitant frolics of Oslo.
Though as the its Scandinavian neighbours deem Norway itself, Christopher proffers something of a one-dimensional experience. It lacks the alluring naïveté and scatty insouciance of Sea Lion, to instead somewhat perplexingly plump for a rather more predictable exercise in a pop music that is here at times as underdone as it has been overdone historically. There’s a tenuity to it all – a lack of tangible substance, and with that little nuance which is probably not something a newly single McPhun is keening to hear. Though there’s what Pop may facetiously slur little, to “no fun” going on, and Christopher serves but as a sign that he may need some more time yet.
Released: January 28th, 2013 [Memphis Industries]