Londoners’ debut is well crafted but fails to set pulses racing.
Mike Haydock 2013
Theme Park don’t have a drummer, and boy does it show.
This debut by twins Marcus and Miles Haughton, and school buddy Oscar Manthorpe, is all shimmering guitars and synths and poppy choruses. It sits in the same dance-meets-indie camp as Friendly Fires and Foals, and shares influences including Orange Juice and Talking Heads.
But if you’re going to try and rouse a dance floor, you need a beat that doesn’t sound reedy and synthetic.
So much of this album is pieced together perfectly, each song full of sunshine and memorable melodies, and crafted with care. Theme Park are young, yet they have a wisdom that belies those years, knowing how to layer up instruments, knowing how to make a guitar riff sing.
This is most obvious on Wax, a simple track built on a single riff that spirals around in your head long after the song has finished.
There are calypso rhythms on Ghosts; opener Big Dream has an inauspicious, minor-key intro before the tune kicks in; and Saccades is a strange, meandering song that begins as an ethereal ballad before building to a funk-filled crescendo. It’s diverse. It’s clever.
But Theme Park fail to get pulses racing. This noise is too restrained and the beats are too tinny; it is so carefully manicured that the life has been sucked out of it.
On Big Dream, they get away with it: the laid-back tone doesn’t want to break a sweat, and that’s fine. But on Jamaica and Tonight – two songs that long to be radio hits – you want everything to hit harder.
You want the mix to jump and pound and excite. But it doesn’t, and the choruses feel hung out to dry.
This makes for a frustrating listen, because the talent is there – damn, even the songs are there. The best one, Two Hours, is also built on a generation-capturing lyric: “I can’t feel anything,” Miles sings, “and it’s bringing me down.”
Belting from a summer festival stage and buoyed by audience sing-alongs, these songs will work a charm. But in the studio, they’ve been tweaked a step too far.