Joe finds French electronic act M83′s latest album a little less than dreamy.
By Joe DeMarini
There have been many ‘80s revivalists lately, but perhaps the French group M83 loves the ‘80s the most. Among contemporaries like Washed Out and Yeasayer, who innovate, making the ‘80s sound of reverbed guitars, shimmering synths and electronic drum kits their own, M83, fronted by Anthony Gonzalez, chooses to stay totally lodged in the past without moving its sound past the early-‘90s.
Each song on M83’s sixth record, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, sounds almost the same as the next, and they all blend into each other. On a double-album that clocks in at just under 80 minutes, the record really starts to overstay its welcome, and so does its overwhelming, youthful naïveté.
Two things make it feel this way, but first and foremost are the lackluster instrumental interludes. Four of these five tracks seem like outros and intros that Gonzalez wanted to include without actually attaching them to a song. The slow-burn tracks, like “Wait” and “Splendor,” feel heavy compared to the album’s more buoyant and danceable tracks, breaking up and slowing down the flow of the album.
And then there are tracks like “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” and “Echoes of Mine,” which should never have happened at all. “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” starts right in the middle of disc one and it’s a little girl telling a story about a frog over a bubbly synth line with fingers snapping in the background. This barely counts as a song, and it certainly serves no purpose.
Towards the end of disc two is “Echoes of Mine,” a narration done in French that sounds like it was plucked from an old French film. This track breaks the flow of the album as if it were tacked on at the end to make some sort of grandiose statement about love—the theme of the majority of the album—but it falls flat.
It’s too bad that M83 makes so many missteps on this album, because there are a few truly fantastic tracks. Lead single “Midnight City” is exactly the kind of song you would expect to hear at some teenager’s basement party with its squawking synths and driving drums, not to mention the wailing saxophone solo at the end. In a one-two punch, “Midnight City” is followed by the super danceable “Reunion,” a reverb-soaked guitar song that would fit perfectly on the soundtrack to The Breakfast Club. These two tracks, along with “New Map” and “OK Pal” on disc two, showcase M83’s talent for danceable pop songs. The track “Klaus I Love You”—a shower of repeating synths with a funky bass line that kicks in at the end—shows a lot of potential for M83’s development of its take on the ‘80s sound. Unfortunately, the track ends before anything more can happen.
To make this record, M83 acquired quite an impressive personnel list. The most famous accomplice here is Zola Jesus, who just released an album of her own and is at the top of her game. Gonzalez underuses her talents by only featuring her on “Intro” and a few scattered narrations throughout the album. Zola Jesus could’ve helped spice up the vocals on Hurry Up; Gonzalez’s Panda Bear-like yelps and Phil Collins crooning get grating at times and could use some support. The rest of the production is as glossy as can be, and though it fits the era M83 is trying to evoke, a little more rawness would’ve been appreciated.
Ultimately, M83 tries to do too much with too little. Using a fairly standard arsenal of instruments and the same themes from his previous album, Saturdays = Youth, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming feels like someone trying to make a grand statement that they already made.
In an interview with Spin about Hurry Up, Gonzalez said, “If you’re doing a very long album, all the songs need to be different and I think I’ve done that with this one.” Unfortunately this is not the case. Gonzalez clearly has a love for the music of his childhood—he just needs to make it his own. After some time with Hurry Up, though, you’ll be able to pick out the solid tracks and hurry up to the good bits.