On Blonde

Yukon Blonde

Dine Alone Records, 2015

http://www.yukonblonde.com

REVIEW BY: Ludwik Wodka

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/11/2015

The pop music from the 1980s is some of the most distinctive of the last 100 years of recorded music, the way that wide collars, ruffled tuxedos, and bell-bottoms are tied to the 1970s. Vancouver’s Yukon Blonde embraces – no, bear hugs – that sound of the ‘80s on their latest album, On Blonde.

Diverging from the more guitar-based pop songs of their preceding albums, this one more prominently featuring synthesizers (and what is 80’s pop without synthesizers?). Other things like the sharp production and mixing help make this sound great, but it is the songwriting that lets it stand on its own. Regardless of how you feel about a band’s connection with the past, this album is virtually irresistible to anyone with an appreciation for ‘80s synth-pop and New Wave. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Right from the start, the opening track “Confused” sounds anything but; it’s full of confidence and exuberance. It has that kind of driving tempo and ringing guitar lines that make me think of a montage involving Molly Ringwald trying on dresses for a senior prom. The following track, “Make U Mine” (the “U” is a nice little nod to Prince), follows in similar fashion, with the up-tempo blend of synth-pop and early ‘80s funk, reminiscent of bands like Level 42 or The Human League.

They change direction with a straight-ahead rocker “I Wanna Be Your Man” (again, the title echoing The Beatles). It swaggers with a glam rock stomping beat and fuzzed guitars that would have fit right in on a T-Rex album. “Hannah” has the fingerpicked ballad and vocal harmonies of early ‘70s singer-songwriters, but then breaks into a middle section overlain with synthesizers. The album closes strong with “Jezebel,” which sounds a bit like a mix of ELO and T-Rex.

The whole album is not relentlessly backward-looking. Some of the songs sound more au courant, like “Saturday Night” and “You Broke The Law,” which demonstrate that Yukon Blonde has still retained some of the sound of their earlier albums. This helps give some context to the new musical direction this band has taken.

Right from the title, with its play on Bob Dylan’s 1966 masterpiece, Yukon Blonde unabashedly celebrates music from days of yore to the point where one could almost make a game out of name-checking the bands that influenced the songs that appear on this disc. The album still has much to recommend it – it works as a whole, being coherent and thematically consistent. As a love letter to the ‘80s, it sometimes seems to slavishly depend upon these retro musical tropes. Nonetheless, this release is ultimately saved by good songs and polished production, delivered with energetic and committed performances.

Rating: B

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