The East Midlands might not be the first part of the country you’d associate with beaches and sand dunes, but with Lusts’ recent single ‘Waves’ providing the ideal anthem for the admittedly niche sector of gothic surf enthusiasts, it’s the perfect springboard from which the Leicestershire duo bring us their debut album, Illuminations.
Brothers Andy and James Stone are clearly influenced by music from two or three decades ago, but while much of the ‘80s-inspired material we hear today borrows the murmured, fuzzy vocal style of the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, Andy Stone’s delivery is clean, clear and pretty poppy. It’s generally easy to pick out the lyrics, and it leads to choruses that get lodged in your brain all day.
The vocals, and traditional verse-chorus-verse approach, are one of many things about Lusts that remind me of New Order – a band with their roots in grimy post-punk, but with a desire to turn it into something more upbeat, accessible and personal. Dark pop earworms are recipe rarely pulled off with success, but Lusts dive into the challenge headlong and emerge with credit.
After a swirling instrumental opener, ‘Sometimes’ is a sign of what to come on Illuminations. It’s a catchy track with a pleasant feel of Britpop meets shoegaze, and ‘Careless’ continues the theme of chorus-driven slices of guitar pop. My favourite track on the album is ‘The Chair’, which is helped by a particularly captivating chorus and, in the latter half of the song, a gloriously shrill drone that Interpol would be proud of.
The band have described the title track as “the beating heart” of the album, and it does in many ways epitomise the recrod. Bright, timeless and fairly radio friendly, it’s nothing new, but it’s everything Lusts are in a nutshell. By the time ‘Waves’ and the oohing and aahing of ‘Bad Weekend’ hit your ears, you realise that just about any track on this album could be released as a single, but is that necessarily a good thing? Albums do need a bit of the glue that makes them a record rather than a collection of songs, and while the two instrumental tracks make for decent interludes, the similar song structure throughout could be argued to be both the album’s strength and weakness.
Still, it’s hard not to enjoy Lusts’ melodies, even if it the poppiness perhaps goes a bit far on ‘Don’t Kiss Me’, which could almost pass as a Christmas number if you threw in some sleigh bells and a reference to mistletoe to accompany the keyboards that drive the chirpily delivered chorus. Penultimate track ‘Fountain of Love’ is something a little different, harking back to ‘80s acts like House of Love and even Simple Minds, and the refreshingly growly ‘Mouthwash’ closes the album on a high. And while I’ve never been a massive fan of the ‘hidden track’, especially in the digital era where minutes of silence just feel like a horrid waste of precious megabytes, the one on this album is an example of how to do them well. It’s a quiet, contemplative and melancholy end to the album, as the brothers sigh “I want to save you, I want to make you all mine, I want to know just what’s inside”. It’s a song that you feel could’ve been developed further, but it works beautifully as a postscript to the album here.
All in all, it’s a record that’s agreeable rather than groundbreaking, but as debuts go, Illuminations showcases a band that have found and formalised their sound, and aren’t afraid to wear it on their sleeve.
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