Dev Hynes lobs us yet another musical curveball.
Camilla Pia 2010-02-09
If Lady Gaga was a guitar-toting cool dude instead of a fabulously deranged chart diva, she might be a little like Lightspeed Champion. Bear with us on this. You see, they both boast chameleon-like qualities when it comes to their careers – flitting between this and that sound- and image-wise – and are more than partial to a bit of dress-up.
The latest incarnation of Dev Hynes, aka Lightspeed Champion, finds the ex-Test Icicle and occasional comic book scribe swapping the big-hearted country stomp of his solo debut, Falling Off the Lavender Bridge, for an impressive foray into chamber pop and even, gulp, musical theatre. It’s a winning transformation, however, as from superb opener Dead Head Blues onwards it’s clear that it has allowed him to develop hugely – lyrically, vocally and perhaps most excitingly in his ability to turn complex Chopin- and Todd Rundgren-inspired compositions into big, swooping sing-along ditties.
Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You is an indie opera of sorts. It features heartbreak anthems galore, a couple of intermissions and darkly humorous tales of existential questioning and death all set to a swoonsome concoction of strutting riffs, synths, classical piano, strings, woodwind, xylophones, ukuleles and stomping feet. It even features an all-male choir crooning advice, desperately imploring the songwriter to buck up and attempting to set him on the right path.
Now all of these bizarre influences and bursts of random instrumentation may sound like a confused musical melee on paper, but on this record it works. And wonderfully so. Each track is certainly jam-packed with ideas, but they are woven tight and worked to perfection with the help of producer and mixer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley) who has clearly done a sterling job of making sense of Hynes’ ridiculously overactive imagination.
Highlights a-plenty pop up throughout, but it’s the most poignant offerings that stick with you – namely the epic Faculty of Fears, with its stabbing pizzicato and Pythagoras references, and the soaring I Don’t Want to Wake Up Alone, which features glorious harmonies and an utterly thundering climax. We’re never sure what Hynes will come up with next, but topping this is going to be tough.