The occasional catchy instrumental loses out to cold, calculated arrangements.
Mike Diver 2009-08-14
One almost pities the dichotomy that is Calvin Harris: on one hand a wannabe Serious, Credible Artist, but on the other a purveyor of massively popular synth lines piled high on towers of cheese and handbags. Almost, because both hits featured here topped the singles chart. However this album is received, he’s not likely to be short of a few bob anytime soon.
The Dumfries-born songwriter – real name Adam Wiles (why change from Adam to Calvin, really?) – most recently hit pay dirt with I’m Not Alone, a track described by the man himself as a “stadium dance tune”. He’s not wrong: once its transition from sombre lyric and acoustic strum to massive big beats is complete, it’s easy to visualise thousands of people absolutely losing their minds to it. The problem is that these people would act the same way if the artist in front of them were Tiësto. Or Scooter. Or even Basshunter. Puke.
That’s not to say that Harris’ tunes appeal exclusively to a lowest common denominator type of dance music fan, more that this album will most likely be picked up by those who get their music from supermarkets: you’ve heard it on the radio; it’s there, right next to the discounted baked goods; you buy it. Actually, that’s unfair, as there are moments on this second album – his first, 2007’s I Created Disco, spawned the zeitgeist-predicting single Acceptable in the 80s (oh, we laughed then, but with hindsight he called it) – which are pleasantly throwaway, almost in the Groovejet league of package-holiday melodic escapism.
Ready for the Weekend – rightly another single – borders on glorious when its chorus hits, the vocals of Mary Pearce cutting through an impressively catchy instrumental. Dance Wiv Me, number one last summer, is included as something of an afterthought, but there’s no denying Harris is its star, not Dizzee Rascal. Without the Scot’s delicious 8-bit sleaze-beat and contrast-adding monotone vocals, it’s simply a recollection of a young man’s horniness down Notting Hill Arts Club on a Thursday night.
Piano-led closer 5iliconeator presents a different side to Harris, flying close to the textural ambience of Air. It’s a sign that, occasionally, there’s a heart to these often cold, calculated arrangements. But until Adam – sorry, Calvin – opens up a little more, he’ll never attract the ears of the more discerning bass-head. Just the ‘hunters.