I must have missed the meeting where it was decided that 1970s AOR was cool. But here we have a sort of super-group (another ’70s concept that has had an unexpected resurgence in recent years) who’ve produced an album ‘almost exclusively inspired by 10cc’s I’m Not In Love.’ It’s all a bit mystifying. Especially when you consider that those involved (producer Ryan Olson, plus members of Megafun, Solid Gold, Bon Ivor and a host of other bands most of whom I’ve never heard of) also thought it a great idea to record every song at 69bpm.
When we consider that the album is indeed the brainchild of a producer some kind of sense does emerge blinking from the dope filled smog from which it almost certainly originated. I’m Not In Love is in many respects a milestone of the school of record production in which the studio is seen as an instrument, used to shape the sound rather than just a tool in reproducing it. Although from this angle we could have just as easily had an album based on an obsession with Good Vibrations or even Video Killed the Radio Star.
The really mystifying thing, though, is that for large parts the album actually works. Thankfully whilst taking some of their cues from the afore-mentioned 10cc hit, they’ve not just made a retread. So whilst we get some breathy vocals (and falsettos, lots of falsettos) and that whole slow synth laden schtick, the whole thing is informed by RnB production and a hatful of experimentation. It veers between electronica, RnB, jazz and soul and there is usually enough chutzpah to avoid the cheesiness.
The major strength and the major problem is that self-imposed 69bpm thing. The tempo anchors the album, giving it a cohesiveness and allowing the moves in and out of various music styles to feel organic. After nearly an hour, though, you are crying out for them to up it, even if just a bit. A high standard is set by the first three tracks – The Gaudy Side Of Town, The Walker and (quelle suprise a cover of a Godley and Creme track) Cry. However by the mid part of the album the pace begins to pall. Particularly as about the only hook you’ll find is indeed on Cry.
A couple of the strongest tracks are at the end (closer Last Prom on Earth with its surprisingly convincing melding of soft-jazz saxophone and slow rap is an album highlight). By the time you’ve got there though you’ll probably be too stoned to notice. Because this is surely the soundtrack to a night of copious dope smoking. The album is an in-joke that got out of hand, but one that (if you are in the properly addled mind-set) somehow manages to just about work.
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