Friday, October 28, 2011

M83, "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming"

M83's newest effort sounds even more like an album recorded and released in the 80's than "Saturdays = Youth" did, and I bet you didn't think that was possible. Any hint of an experimental bent to the album has been swept away by the even more audaciously gated drums, layers of vocals drenched in echo, and cheap, cheerful sounding synths. Where are the noisy tracks that recall the band's twee/shoegaze roots, like "Highway of Endless Dreams" or "Fields, Shorelines, and Hunters". Where's the epic closing track in all its 10+ minute technicolour glory, like on all their other albums? Instead, it's a steady stream of three to four minute pop tunes and short, mellow interludes. The interludes beautifully tie together sections of the album, allowing the band to segue between different styles. They're like quick, fleeting snapshots of how their music used to feel and sound, as if these short snippets are all that remains of M83's pre-2005 past.

The fact that they shamelessly rip off all of their favourite 80's bands is a huge part of the album's appeal, I know. For instance, if "Coulours" was their attempt to rewrite New Order's "The Perfect Kiss", "Claudia Lewis" strays so close to "Thieves Like Us" that you can practically sing the latter's lyrics on top of the former. But they've also gone the extra mile to steal from themselves, and I can't be sure whether this is intentional or not. I simply can't get around the notion that "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" is the first M83 album that comes across as nothing but reassembled pieces of old M83 albums, rather than a new piece of music in and of itself. The starblinded, proggy, cigarette lighter waving "Intro" is a dead ringer for "Moonchild" -- both tracks open their respective albums too. The wailing, rapid-fire synth rushes and rhythmic cadences of "New Map" are lifted straight from "Don't Save Us From the Flames". "Splendour" is the piano and choir weepy ballad that recent M83 albums have been contractually obligated to have (e.g. "Safe", "Too Late"). "Echoes of Mine" and "Raconte-Moi une Histoire" revisit the energetic instrumental + fake TV/movie samples combination (i.e. vocal snippets that were made to sound like samples from some obscure, long lost movie but were actually kitsch-y bits recorded for the album) that M83 have done a few times already.

But bands steal from themselves all the time. All we should really care about is whether or not the old tricks still work. Despite the intimidating running time (75 minutes), the album feels like a sprint, never dragging for a moment as it runs through 22 tracks of treble-drenched 80's pop throwbacks. It's dripping with titanic sounding songs that, on the whole, are more immediate than anything M83 have ever done, and whatever the album might lose by recycling so many old ideas, it makes up for in spades by presenting such a varied palate of instantly addicting tunes.

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