M83 ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ – Review

21 Nov

I’ve never been a fan of double albums, they’re a victim of the trait I dislike most in pop music – indulgence. They only ever came to exist in the first place because drugged up rock stars of the 1960’s were too high and too arrogant to edit their albums. They stuck about because those rock stars became prog rockers, and the songs became too long to fill two sides of vinyl. Then Punk rockers saw it as a form of rebellion against record labels, and grunge rockers saw it as the ultimate form of artistic expression. In the age of downloads and unlimited space, the idea of sticking to a 45 minute rule that was created through need rather than want, may seem ridiculous (Flaming lips have just put out a 24 hour song) but personally I think the old LPs were the perfect length, and I get bored if an album is much longer.

More to the point, I’ve yet to hear a double album that hasn’t been overlong, overwrought, over ambitious and completely hit and miss; come to think about it, that’s actually what I like about the double albums I am a fan of. At their best (The White album obviously, also ‘Sign o the times’, ‘The Wall’, and ‘Blonde on Blonde’)  they are worlds to get lost in, landscapes to explore, and things you can dip into here and there. It’s about taking the good with the bad and enjoying the quirks and ambition. So whilst double albums aren’t may favourite in any particular act’s back catalogue, they’re often the ones I listen to most (just not from start to finish). Still, they fail more than they succeed.

M83’s stab at this rock staple is all of the above. It contains some of their best songs, it contains some of their worst. It’s strange and captivating, it’s strange and bewildering. It’s poppy but experimental. It’s got a small world point of view with a cinematic vision. Songs of youth told from the perspective of an adult. In a nutshell ‘Hurry Up We’re Dreaming’, is M83’s best album yet and their worst. I loved the singular vision they had for ‘Saturdays =Youth’ and that record was the perfectly nostalgic take on synth/dream pop. The difference here is that, whilst they explore the same themes and styles, they do so by putting them in a larger context, by zooming out, and by surrounding the direct pop songs with ambient seas of synth. At its heart are M83’s boldest attacks on the mainstream to date, absolute tunes like ‘Midnight City’ and ‘Steve Mqueen’, but intriguingly (and slightly frustratingly) they do everything to make this a difficult album to digest in one sitting, even for a fan.

Still, lets concentrate on the positives for now. As I say, there are some belting tunes; everyone’s probably heard the brilliant ‘Midnight City’ already, but it’s not even the catchiest song on here. ‘Reunion’ is pure drivetime rock gold, featuring an epic chanting chorus and the now traditional M83 spoken word bridge. ‘Wait’ is an authentic power ballad that builds and builds like a tidal wave before washing over, and somewhat flattening, the next two tracks (the downright bizarre ‘Racone-moi Une Historie’ and the atmospheric but forgettable ‘Trains to Pluton’). Maybe best of all is ‘Ok Pal’, which sounds like another golden oldie from the decade time forget (the 80’s obvs); it’s bursting with dodgy synths and colourful harmonies.

Vocally, this is a very different record to its predecessor. That album relied on girl/boy trade offs and half whispered melodies, but on ‘Hurry Up We’re Dreaming’ Gonzales tackles lead vocal duties on his own, and his voice is more powerful, and higher in the mix. It makes for a less dreamy listen, and it means you can now actually hear some, although not all, of what he’s saying. That’s the main difference here, otherwise this actually feels like a very slight development from what they were doing on ‘Saturdays = Youth’. It’s more ambitious obviously, but musically the core tracks are very much on the same page. The instrumental interludes have their purpose in tieing the album together but honestly there are far too many of them, and none are essential listens. A part of me thinks it would have been better if they’d gotten rid of the interludes altogether and selected the best 12 songs, but then it would be an entirely different record altogether, and it wouldn’t be half as interesting.

M83’s goal was apparently to create something ‘very, very, very epic’ and, fair play to them, they’ve succeeded. At what cost, is the question – could this have been a better album if it was shorter and more carefully selected? Whatever the case, this is a worthy addition to M83’s catalogue, and if every great band needs a double album to their name then at least they can cross this off their list. I’m not convinced on its merits just yet, but like all double albums this will be one to come back to in years to come; I’m sure there are songs I’ve overlooked, or sparks of lightning buried somewhere in the middle of this monster. It’s one of the most breathtakingly ambitious albums that has been made in years, and the fact they manage to channel this ambition into something that is relatively cohesive, radio friendly and odd is something to be applauded.

7.5/10

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