A Dark Reflective Stroll Through 80's Pop
‘Compassion’, the latest long player offering from Swede/Dane outfit, Lust for Youth, is a striking production that fuses sounds of shimmering light and morose dark to create a silver-lined nimbus of pensive synthpop.
What started out as the solo project of Swede Hannes Norrvide, Lust for Youth developed into a trio after a move to Copenhagen saw Norrvide hook up with Danes, Loke Rahbek and Malthe Fischer. Now following on from their 2014 post-punk, cold wave grit-comp, ‘International’, LFY has released this eagerly awaited follow up which is, in many ways, the culmination of a continuum of sonic evolution.
The antithesis of its predecessor, this is a more mature, sophisticated creation, although some might say that with that same refinement comes a loss of the very rawness that gave ‘International’ a grimy and therefore, more interesting edge.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal taste: if you’re a lover of dirty sounding, industrial synth, then ‘Compassion’ probably won’t be your cup of Twinings: if however, you like a slice of slick synth-pop noir with your brew, then this polished gem is a must-add to your musical treasure trove.
Album opener ‘Stardom’, a fusion of finessed electronic sketches, that could have fitted seamlessly on ‘Some Great Reward or Black Celebration. Compounding the Depeche Mode comparison is the wistful vocal so suggestive of a Nordic Dave Gahan, although the sparse vocal modulation gives it a slight Kraftwerkian mono-automaton quality. ‘Stardom’ is a two tiered dichotomy of warm melodic overhead lines, flowing in parallel to undulating underground synth-bass & dancing percussion. ‘Stardom’ is a dusky love song tinged with melancholic hue,
“I’m complete, I’m content, In your bed but I’m floating, In the air in the clear”
Next up, ‘Limerance’ meaning ‘infatuated love’, is a song with a dreamy wistful melody that perfectly complements its lyrical theme of obsessive, unrequited love. Pure 80s pop, it is made up of a series of interconnecting loops underpinned by an insistent drum beat and repetitive sequences of warm synth that give a honeyed glaze to a washed-out, detached vocal.
Smatterings of “found sounds” and spoken word, are dotted through the compelling meld of poignant cold electronics and warm acoustic chords that make up ‘Easy Window’, a curious yet enchanting instrumental choc full of quirks and delightfully arranged synth sequences that brings to mind a sonic Star Wars between outer space and planet earth.
From interstellar handbags at dawn, to nocturnal handbags on the dancefloor, pure 80s pop-monster, ‘Sudden Ambitions’, is an infectious muddle of NO, ‘Regret’ and TfF ‘The Working Hour’, while its mille feuille of up tempo synth layered over a foundation of gyrating percussive beats, is joyful dance pop in the mould of Pet Shop Boys. Here Norrvide’s vocal, at its most Gahan-esque, is also at its warmest and most inviting.
Rolling with the PSB and NO sound is surging disco track, ‘Better Looking Brother’, which will sweep you away on the tide of its driving momentum, while duet ‘Display’, does a sonic volte-face changing down gears to first and brings a welcome albeit temporary reprieve from the continuous thrum of up-tempo pop. Despite comprising a bolognaise of several strands of warm electronica and melodic guitar lines, ‘Display’ is full of wide open spaces, making this ballad one of the most interesting, and for my money definitely one of the best, tracks on the album.
The album closes with the rather bizarre ‘In Return’. Ambiguous Swedish spoken word is married with an almost ambient instrumental accompaniment, its pervasive sense of stasis given only brief moments of animation via electronic flourishes. It’s an easy listening close but probably the most dated sound on the album.
All in all this album is more retro than its more futuristic predecessor. It references some of the best 80s brand names, which in turn adds to the sense of wistful nostalgia so integral to the album’s thematic core.
‘Compassion’ is a dark reflective stroll through 80s pop highlighted with some wonderful flashes of melodic silver lining. While it may be less edgy than ‘International’, it is significantly more mature, and as far as pieces of polished synth-pop noir go, this is one classy affair.