Don’t let their famous friends put you off – this is a fine dance-rock album.
Ben Hewitt 2010-10-07
Sebastien Marshal – the creative force behind synth-pop troupe Detachments – has assembled quite the group of prominent followers. Former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook is a fan, having invited them to join him for live performances; so, too, is ex-DFA Records producer Tim Goldsworthy. And now Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford, renowned for his work with the likes of Klaxons and Delphic, has produced their self-titled debut album.
Endorsements from such stellar names could easily lumber Detachments with the unhelpful tag of being the industry’s latest buzz band, but there’s more to them than just a few golden handshakes with dance-rock glitterati. Like many of the most successful artists to marry the guitar with the dance floor, Marshal knows the end product has to do more than merely move your feet – it has to stir the emotions, too. His sneering vocal, combined with grinding synths and sparse drum beats, creates a bitterly melancholic backdrop for the themes of love, loss and isolation that run throughout the album. Lead single Holiday Romance, for example, is no whimsical ode to carefree infatuation but instead a paean to heartbreak and loneliness as Marshal intones "It appears she’s disappeared" over a scuzzy electronic riff.
Elsewhere, New Order’s influence can be easily detected – perhaps appropriately, given Hook’s patronage of the band. Both H.A.L. and Audio / Video are built around pulsating electronic grooves, while the latter even boasts atmospheric sound effects reminiscent of producer Martin Hannett’s work with Joy Division. Such unrelenting bleakness would verge on overwhelming if it weren’t for Detachment’s knack for producing killer pop-hooks. I Don’t Want to Play comes across like a particularly misanthropic version of The Human League, while there’s a lovely soft and smudgy sheen on the delicate Sometimes.
Even if those snatches of electro-pop brilliance are vital in ensuring Marshal’s bleakness doesn’t consume all before it, though, it’s that blackened romanticism that gives Detachments so much of its poignancy. It’s almost a shame that the singer possesses so many famous friends, because they only serve as a distraction from the luxuriant gloom on display here.