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The Golden Year
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The annals of synth-pop are peppered with nearly men, almost hits and sideline attractions. For every Human League or Pet Shop Boys, there’s been numerous outfits plying a similar trade but without the alchemic knowhow to turn a grasp of technology into pop gold. Sadly, time won’t tell with Camden’s Ou Est Le Swimming Pool: the death of singer Charles Haddon in the summer would suggest that the band’s short existence – they only formed in 2009 – has already ended.
It’s right, though, that The Golden Year has seen the commercial light of day. While the coldest cynic can point to widespread coverage of Haddon’s death – was it or wasn’t it suicide? – and the recent Chazzstock event, which saw the likes of The Kooks and Mr Hudson remember the man’s brief life for charity, as reasons for its release, such a stance overlooks entirely what is not just a competent exercise in contemporary synth-pop arranging. The Golden Year is blessed with real heart and soul, the men in the middle of the machine audible through the typical, but well-employed, array of tinny beats and processed pieces.
Sure, it’s got its share of flaws – what debut doesn’t? – but The Golden Year is full of genuine promise that, unfortunately, will never be fully realised. Dance the Way I Feel, a single in 2009, is a great slice of post-Gaga electro-pop, a confident attitude only just masking rather more emotionally frayed undercurrents – expression on the dancefloor as escape, release from the trials of the real world. Answers is an atmospheric highlight which mixes effects-laden vocals with a real sense of yearning – it’s a love song for the 21st century that, in the hands of an already popular artist, would surely be a top ten single. Present it to a Ne-Yo or an Usher, and you’ve a global hit on your hands. The organic strings of Outside work surprisingly well in the context of the overall sound, sampled handclaps in the background popping like fireworks against a sky already densely populated with stars.
Some of the lyrics are pretty cringeworthy, and the trio’s compositional nous hardly light years ahead of their peers. But there’s more of noteworthy substance here than was heard on Fenech-Soler’s eponymous debut, for example. And they’d have got better, no doubt, and quickly too. As a posthumous eulogy to a man’s evolving and endearing pop ability, The Golden Year is perfection.--Mike Diver
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Top customer reviews
I'd give the album a very solid 4 and a half stars if I could but Amazon don't do things by halves!
From the opening tack "You Started" I was very impressed and then the following three songs ("The Key", "These New Knights" and "Dance The Way I Feel") rolled in and blew me away. It's an 80s sounding mix of synth-pop with an up-to-date feel to it with the vocals and lyrics. I'm thoroughly enjoying the album and am pleasantly surprised to hear such an impressive debut. It reminds me a lot of Human League, Fischerspooner and such like, but I hate to draw comparison with other bands!
The album does fizzle out a little in the second half (and this is why it doesn't get 5 stars) but whichever way you view it or listen to it, I'm enjoying it a great deal and have been playing it a lot since it arrived last week.
As I said, I wasn't a fan and whilst it might not be possible to be a fan now (I'm assuming the band won't continue, but I may be wrong) I have to say it's just a great release and I'd be surprised if you don't enjoy it as much I am.
To the rest of the band, whatever happens you have this legacy and piece of work to look back on proudly and defiantly. I hope you continue in music and maybe there will be another Ou Est Le Swimming Pool album?
'The Golden Year' will stand testament to the songwriting talent of Charles Haddon and the musical ability of the whole group. With 12 tracks included on the record, at least 8 are stand-out tunes. These include the already-released singles; Dance The Way I feel, These New Knights and Jackson's Last Stand. Personal favourites of mine are; You Started [the opening track which is not in the band's trademark 80's electronic style], Better and Curtain Falls.
Whilst some of the album is reminiscent of the first wave of electronica and synthpop, that does not detract from the listening pleasure. The only small let-down is the cardboard gate-fold CD case - it's difficult to see on the shelves when browsing through.
To my mind the best tracks are "You Started", "Answers" " Get Along" and of course the very, very perfect "Dance The Way I Feel". I can't encourage anyone ENOUGH to listen to it and buy it/download (why is there currently a 5-8 week wait on Amazon? what the WHAT?)..it is a complete joy.
The singles are "The Key" "These New Knights" "Outside" "jacksons Last Stand" & no 10 in the indie charts "Dance the way I feel".
Glorious, joyous, emotional, catchy, clever and wonderful.
Theres about 5 really good songs and i wouldn't say any are bad
Sorry for the naff and very vague review, realised when i started i really don't have time for this!
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