Heartbeats charms with such ease that it’s hard to accept it’s a debut.
Mike Diver 2010
The much-quoted epithet “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”, which may or may not have been first uttered by the late, great Frank Zappa, is never more applicable than when a scribe is presented with a dance record. The sole intention of Grum, aka Leeds-based Scot Graeme Shepherd, is to fill a club with revelry, not to flick the switches of the critical consignetti. His music is a gateway to release for the everyman, not the preserve of the muso.
Which is not to say this is a bad record – it’s far from that. This is a great record in the right circumstances – a great record with giant disco balls hanging from its extremities, stupidly dangerous heels on its feet and a row of neon shots lined up before it. A shiny set that exudes a carefree spirit and nails its colours to the mast of mass sing-alongs after just two tracks: the Hall & Oates-meets-M83 magic of Through the Night and Can’t Shake This Feeling, which fuses classic New York house with a beachside rave on a Spanish island. Both are deceptively detailed of design but absolutely instant of hit; both are mindless fun on an escapist level, and meticulous of arrangement should one take the time to really listen to what’s going on.
As Heartbeats shifts its shape to accommodate forms including Italo-disco, Justice-like bangers and future funk, it never loses sight of its central purpose: to enliven anyone’s night, be that before the taxi arrives or when the evening reaches its arms-aloft peak. It’s no surprise at all to learn that Shepherd’s favourite albums include Daft Punk’s Discovery, as Heartbeats shares that record’s glossy aesthetic – not so layered that it only reflects its influences, but able to present them anew with a hefty dollop of individuality.
Call it dumb if you must – it sure isn’t going to turn the tastes of more rockist types – but unlike much music that focuses purely on the dancefloor there are hidden depths to Heartbeats. It charms with such ease that it’s hard to accept it’s a debut, and that its maker is only in his early 20s. Every track hits a sticky sweet spot, and when one reads elsewhere on the ‘net that an album’s title-track is the “greatest song of the 21st century”, well, it’s worth investigating. Just be sure that the context is right before cracking this open.