Saturdays=Youth

M83

Mute, 2008

http://www.myspace.com/m83

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/09/2008

At the risk of losing some credibility, I’m just going to be honest: I’ve never especially liked My Bloody Valentine.

I am fully aware of their contributions to popular music/culture, and I think that Loveless is a really interesting album. Of course, it has a permanent spot on my reference shelf.

But that doesn’t mean I enjoy listening to it.

Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music is also an interesting album, and I think Rolling Stone called it the worst album of all time. I’d tend to agree with that assessment. If there’s someone out there who has made it all the way through Reed’s horrendous musical experiment, I’d like to hear from you, shake your hand, and then maybe punch you in the mouth. Point is that interesting music isn’t necessarily listenable music.

My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, although not one of my favorite records, is a remarkable musical exploration of texture, reverb, and noise; elements that would become the main ingredients for shoegaze.

Some would argue that when it comes to pop music, everything’s been done already. Fair enough. It does seem that the best new music is the music that most effectively revives, reinvents, and regurgitates pop’s greatest influences, while adding some degree of forward-thinking musical perspective. That’s not an altogether bad thing. The results are often fantastic (The Strokes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Interpol, etc.). If it really has all been done before, then it’s just a matter of which artist/band has a better record collection. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

M83’s excellent new album Saturdays=Youth is pop revivalism at its best.

The album cover sort of says it all. A nod to John Hughes, the cover depicts eight hysterically dramatic and contemplative teenagers posing for what would make a most awesome poster for The Breakfast Club Part II.

France’s Anthony Gonzalez, the twenty-six year-old guru behind M83, has crafted a mesmerizing album loaded with ‘80s musical and cinematic imagery all wrapped up in a perfect sonic shoegaze wonderland. On Saturdays=Youth, M83’s fifth album, Gonzalez shares vocal duties with Morgan Kibby, who lends her rich, breathy, and stunning pipes for many of the album’s best tracks. The gorgeously restrained vocals combined with M83’s savvy use of keyboards, guitars and reverb-drenched textures make this a record that sort of transports the listener into a dreamlike world à la The Cure’s Disintegration.

The piano-driven tracks, like album opener “You, Appearing” and “Skin Of The Night,” provide some fantastically mopey moments and are placed delicately between the album’s glistening pop anthems like “Kim & Jesse” and “Graveyard Girl.” The album’s first single, “Couleurs,” is mostly instrumental and it’s, like, the raddest New Order song since “Perfect Kiss.” Other highlights such as the pulsating four-and-a-half minute crescendo “Highway Of Endless Dreams” and the heartbreaking “Too Late” show off Gonzalez’s musical vision and keyboard wizardry.

Melodrama is blatant on Saturdays=Youth and will likely turn some casual listeners off. Especially the spoken word on “Graveyard Girl,” where the youthful narrator laments that “The cemetery is my home, I want to be a part of it.” Admittedly, it comes off as overdone at times. But you definitely get the sense that it was intentional. That’s what’s so likeable about the album: it’s a sophisticated, charismatic, and deliberate throwback to ‘80s musical and cultural nostalgia and that variety of nostalgia requires melodrama, lots of it.

Hats off to you, Mr. Gonzalez. Not sure where you can take M83 from here, but I wouldn’t be upset if you wanted to do more of the same.

Rating: B+

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© 2008 Kenny S. McGuane and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mute, and is used for informational purposes only.