I visited kylie.com a while back for… no reason, really. Some part of my body clock registered that “it’s probably time for her next album, right?”
I was greeted by a five-second loop from the song All the Lovers. Surprisingly not a vocal segment (her being a vocalist and all), but the sweetest synthesiser this side of the lead on Kraftwerk’s Kometenmelodie 2.
Naturally, I was sold.
I actually liked Kylie long before I grew the balls to admit it. She’s pop music, you know, and we don’t do pop music. Well, a little bit of 80s-real-pop, but not conglomerate-based manufactured stuff like Kylie. Oh no no. In a family where people like indie and folk…
The first song of hers that really captured my heart was probably Come Into My World, which somehow associated itself with Thief II: The Metal Age (imagine crawling across rooftops, raiding houses to the sound of it… yeah, the association was via the UT Thievery mod, which was pretty like Thief II but was distinctly not singleplayer… But I digress). I Believe was pretty hot too, but it was only hearing In My Arms in the darkness of my bedroom pre-waking-up that finally gave me the courage to ask my parents for her last album X for my birthday (along with the complete Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog… I don’t try to hide it anymore).
Later, I bought Light Years, and it was good. Not sure about any of the pre-millenial stuff, because the singles from then don’t sound that great, or Fever (because even I can’t stand Can’t Get You Out of My Head). There may be other post-millenial albums that I don’t know about.
(I keep using the phrase pre-millenial and post-millenial because of Deus Ex. Sorry.)
It took a few weeks after that original tantalising glimpse for the entirety of All the Lovers to surface on the Internet. And it was no disappointment; definitely something I would be delighted to hear at Cheesy Pop (I bought the single (oh yes) on the 28th (physical release day) and it sounds even better at high volume).
So I investigated, started hanging around the website, checking the news section.
The actual announcement of the album seemed like somewhat mixed news to me, because along with the track-list it gives the actual writers of each song. I know Kylie is usually written by a conglomerate, but whoa! She’s usually bouncing between three or so in various combinations across a whole album, but this one seems to have nary a shared writer between any two songs, let alone across the whole album.
By rights, this should result in a massive cluster-fuck of an album.
The album is hilariously up-beat, and absolutely dripping in glorious synths. As if the solo from All the Lovers wasn’t enough, Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love) has a fat bass with a little Mega Drive-esque whimpering in the background behind pounding drums. These kind of synths continue throughout, providing the glue between fifty different pop writers.
Closer sounds like something out of Unreal Tournament but with slinky vocals slathered all over it (then again, maybe it’s just the name recalling DM-Closer), what with its synth harpsichord thing making it sound a bit like a post-apocalyptic club scene theme. When the bombs have dropped, you will be dancing to this… Possibly on repeat, because it’s a tiny wee thing (much like Kylie herself).
Everything is Beautiful is probably the slowest song on the album, and it still manages to have pulsing rhythms and rich backing synths. This is not an album for relaxation, but this song could be a ‘quiet’ moment in a science-fiction game. Mushyromancesubplottheme.mp3?
Title track Aphrodite adds some guitar backing, rolling drums, piano and almost echoes Simple Minds… Before they turned into U2, that is. And if they had better synths the whole time.
In fact, imagine if early Simple Minds (Reel to Real Cacophony, Empires and Dance) became fronted by a woman and turned towards electro-pop instead of U2, the guitars staying in the background instead of becoming the sole focus. Splash on some piano (a hint of Ultravox), and you have it. This is an album steeped in old synth, yes, but like A-ha’s stunningly contemporary Foot of the Mountain, this is in no way chained to the past.
Illusion really is straight out of a Sonic game with its beepy square-wave melody. Well, I need to qualify that — out of a good sonic game, before Jun Senoue turned to J-rock and fell off. Back when Howard Drossin ruled the decks for Sonic & Knuckles. Back when the music was generated from instructions rather than pre-recorded MP3 nonsense (that doesn’t even loop, in the case of Sonic Adventure — repeat the song five times and fade out, nobody will notice). The following Better than Today is in a similar vein, but turned to happy bouncing; I can see this one as a single, actually.
Can’t Beat the Feeling stole its lead synth from Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds, I’m sure of it. A fine album closer with more of that club-style flanging we heard earlier. The only down-side is that it kind of fades out (despite many other songs exhibiting proper finishes); I think it could have lingered for just a little bit longer instead of falling off the edge of the map.
For being a twelve-tracker, it’s rather a short album, weighing in at around 43 minutes. Another reference to the 80s synth-pop era where that was about what you could fit on a standard vinyl record?
Either way: it’s good. It’s a beautiful collection of up-beat summer tunes, and I’m sure any one of them would be well recieved on the dancefloor. A lazy DJ could just slam it on, mix out the two seconds of silence between each track and watch the party unfold.
Now when she tours, who’s coming with me?