the past two years have seen the 80s come back in a big way; from carly rae jepsen's 2015 album E•MO•TION to designer jeremy scott's spring 2017 offering, and of course who could forget my personal favourite release of 2016, the 1975's ambient electro-pop masterpiece, i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.
imagine then, my joy when busted made their long-awaited, synth-laden comeback, eleven years (!!) after lead singer charlie simpson left the band to focus on his heavy metal outfit, fightstar. needless to stay, the band wasn't hugely successful, and after a joint tour with mcfly, busted are finally striking out on their own once again.
the first official single from night driver, on what you're on, could slot nicely into the back catalogue of daft punk, and quickly set the tone for the rest of the album. there's a touch of funk, disco, and of course electronica. as i said, the 80s seem to be having a resurgence of sorts in the music world of late, so i was instantly hooked on this track, with an equally aesthetically pleasing video set in a neon-lit dive bar (and bearing striking similarities to this, aka my favourite song/video of the year by far).
as these things so often do, the release date of night driver completely passed me by, and it was only a few weeks after said date that i had my first listen. (side note: as a birthday present to myself, i finally gave in and got spotify premium and it has been life changing; it's safe to say i haven't missed the constant adverts every five minutes.)
i wanted my first listen to remain untainted by the various album reviews, always preferring to make up my own mind and not be influenced by the opinions of others, and this time was no different. it was only when i came to write this post that i looked at the existing reviews, and they were admittedly pretty harsh. it seems fans and critics (all of whom happen to be straight, white men; can we please start a petition to ban them from reviewing pop music?) are divided by the trio's new sound, but come on. it's been thirteen years since their second album, a present for everyone, with its pop-punk stylings, provided us with nostalgia-laden hits including air hostess and crashed the wedding; admittedly still bangers, but the sort of thing generally reserved for cheesy pop nights at your nearest student nightclub.
night driver still deals in nostalgia, but in a much more refined, and dare i say it, mature way. quite the departure from the boys who brought us what i go to school for. the kids in the classroom, along with the band themselves, might have grown up, but so has their sound, and is that really such a bad thing? comparing this album to their previous work is somewhat futile as they're trying out a completely new sound, and for me, an avid pop music lover, it was a refreshing departure from their early sound, and actually made me sit up and take note of a band i've never really taken seriously before. being an ardent lover of all things pop, especially anything with an 80s touch, means i may be a tad biased, but this, like most pop albums, is fun. and after the hellscape that was 2016, i feel like it's just what we all need.
the album opens with the slick, synth-driven coming home, and right away the lyrics hit me where it hurts, with lyrics like i miss my family / there's nothing here for me feeling just that bit too real, especially as i'm going home tomorrow until friday; a short trip, yes, but literally the only chance i'll get since starting a christmas temp job at the start of the month. i have a feeling this song will be on repeat for the entirety of the two hour journey from london (ugh) to manchester.
other standouts include the sax-heavy i will break your heart, title track night driver and the toe-tappingly catchy one of a kind, but my favourite track by far is without it. annoyingly, there don't seem to be any lyrics online, so i've had it on repeat the last few days in an attempt to learn the words without any help, and i think i'm finally getting there. charlie's gritty vocals may sound a tad out of place on the more upbeat tracks, but they work perfectly on this track, which contains an angsty guitar riff nestled amongst the synthesizers we've come to expect from the band's new sound; a homage to their pop-punk roots.
there's a sense of uncertainty throughout the song - maybe we'll both be better off without it, goes the chorus - and perhaps the album as a whole. one reviewer accused the album of sounding "produced", and describing it as "all surface". granted, the sound does borrow heavily from the past, but as i said, it's their first album in thirteen years. they were never going to get it perfect on the first try, but hopefully their sound will evolve should they decide to make another album in years to come. to quote that same review, "there’s a story to tell here, one of how and why these three friends are making a go of things again", and hopefully they'll be willing to share it.
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