Tuesday, 5 February 2008

LIGHTSPEED CHAMPION - Falling Off The Lavender Bridge

Falling off the Lavender Bridge is an incredibly bold debut, rising as it does from the ashes of a thrash punk outfit - the Test Icicles - to showcase the agoraphobic musings of an oversensitive frontman.

Devonte Hynes has inadvertantly ended up as poster boy for the angst-ridden, unneccessarily intellectual pop that threatens to overwhelm new releases in 2008. That the lavender of the album title apparently refers to a piece of the herb that Devonte would fall asleep holding, and to which he attributes the dreams and fantasies that form a backdrop to his debut, is hardly going to convince his gnarlier fans to trade a night of sniffing glue for an evening's teetotal emo.

Musically, despite being so great a departure from Hynes' previous work, the album is a masterpiece, fusing banjo lines, swinging oboe and wistful strings with more lilting confidence Hynes' 22 years would have led anyone to expect. The vocals are, on first listen, tough to fall for - tripping over vowels and barely bothering to cover consonants, while critics have pilloried Gerard 'My Chemical Romance' Way for couplets less jarring than 'I'm going to assume that my phone is broken/Delivery reports have ruined my life'.

Lightspeed Champion succeeds where others have failed by punctuating the mundane with the completely unexpected - so Devil Tricks For A Bitch can flip from 'I think I'm going to stay in today/Before something really bad happens' to sneer 'Sketchy motherfuckers/Take me to great heights' - summing up the self indulgent leap from mole-hill to crushing mountain with a genuine vulnerability that poorer quality emo tends to make embarassingly unconvincing.

Ultimately, in a music scene where global warming, conspiracy theories and Bird Flu (cheers, British Sea Power) typically provide the subject matter for any critically acclaimed album, it's about time cynical music lovers realised that decent music can be structured around the humble mobile phone and extreme hangovers. Delivered in Hynes' offbeat monotone and textured with discordant guitars/violins/ukelele, Falling Off The Lavender Bridge's greatest acheivement - both lyrically and musically - is to make self-indulgent angst refreshingly palatable.

(7/10)

Liz Dodd

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