Liverpudlian synth-pop outfit Wave Machines first garnered attention last summer with the limited edition single, I Go I Go I Go, on Chess Club. Flitting around the razor-thin line between catchy genius and irritating jauntiness that great pop songs always inhabit, it whetted appetites for their debut album. Almost a year later and, with synthesizers seemingly a contractual requirement for 2009 debutantes, Wave If You're Really There captures the zeitgeist with a bevy of decent dance-pop tracks that aren't going to change the world, but will definitely brighten up a festival field or two.
It would be harsh to say that Wave If You're Really There is throwaway, but its undisputed pleasures do diminish over time. The rising three-note melody of opener You Say the Stupidest Things instantly melts the heart, as it's been doing on songs from Otis Redding's I Got Dreams To Remember to Everybody Hurts by REM. But it's never expanded upon here: it just stands there, looking beautiful and not saying a lot. Similarly, the breezy slo-mo funk of single Keep The Lights On is one of those instantly familiar tracks that demands heavy rotation before being completely forgotten about.
However, there are other resolutely catchy moments here that pad out the style with some substance. The mournfulness of the lyric to the guitar-led Punk Spirit, for example, is at odds with the emotional distance or ironic posing that's on display elsewhere, and confirms that this is a band capable of - indeed, perhaps better when - stepping outside the limiting boundaries of synth-spangled party tunes.
Further proof of that, and by far the best track on this brief, bright album, comes at its close. Drummer Vidar Norheim takes over the vocal duties for Dead Houses, which builds slowly into a powerful, hypnotic throb. Reflective in mood and eschewing the immediacy that dominates elsewhere, it's also the track that, when the pronounced but finite pleasures of its poppier neighbours have worn off, will be most often returned to. --Chris Power
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