thu 18/04/2024

Album: Groove Armada - Edge of the Horizon | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Groove Armada - Edge of the Horizon

Album: Groove Armada - Edge of the Horizon

First album in ten years from hit-making dance duo is a yacht rock stinker

Sailing into the Eighties sun

Alongside Basement Jaxx, Groove Armada were one of the last big acts to blossom from the 1990s boom in clubland and DJ culture. They are responsible for bona fide classics in “Superstylin’”, “At the River” and “I See You Baby”, and also founded the Lovebox Festival, which was named after their fourth album.

Their last albums, the Black Light/White Light pairing, arrived a decade ago, and mined Eighties electronics to decent effect. Such biographical positivity is included to counterpoint the fact their latest album is a yacht rock horror story, possibly seeking the ears of Balearic ironists alongside those young enough not to be haunted by how awful yuppie "wine bars" were.

Let us be clear; the so-called “yacht” sound – late-Seventies/early-Eighties super-smooth, ultra-slick session muso cocaine pop-rock from LA – might be an occasional wheeze to sing along to after a few drinks, and even gave birth to a micro-pool of genuinely timeless songs (Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer”, for instance), but the manner in which it’s lately become an inspirational well-spring is an indication only of snarky meta vapidity and an inability to connect with the raw muse. Groove Armada’s eighth album, special guest heavy (She Keeps Bees, Paris Brightledge, etc), and riddled with REO Speedwagon-get-funky power ballad vibes, is a rancid case in point.

Another solid reference point is Empire of the Sun, a group whose influence across popular music has been unexpectedly huge, and Nick Littlemore from that band appears on a couple of songs, notably delivering a David Byrne’-ish vocal on opener “Get Out on the Dancefloor”, one the few likeable songs. As for the rest, from the cocktails-at-the-beach-bar chug of “Dance Our Hurt Away” to the hideous sub-Prince slowie “I Can Only Miss You” this is rank stuff, a gentle sheen of EDM production cast over glossy retro-futurist production. Even the Autotuned appearance of US dance don Todd Edwards on the single “Lover 4 Now” cannot upgrade it from a muddled sonic fusion of Seal, The 1975 and “Let’s Dance”-era Bowie.

There’s clearly a current appetite for regurgitating the worst, most vacuous sounds of the Eighties, alongside the best. Seven years ago Daft Punk's Random Access Memories proved this could even be done with aplomb but, unfortunately Edge of the Horizon seems more the misguided product of a feeble passing trend than rooted in anything vibrant or exciting.

Below: Watch the video for "Lover 4 Now" by Groove Armada featuring Todd Edwards


'Let us be clear; the so-called “yacht” sound – late-Seventies/early-Eighties super-smooth, ultra-slick session muso cocaine pop-rock from LA' Steely Dan? Hall & Oates?

It would be foolish of me to deem this review as false simply because I myself enjoyed this album profusely, but I think there is also something to be said for respecting an artist’s work. Yes, this album borrows elements from the distinct sound of the 1980’s pop scene, but I believe it is equally important to acknowledge and respect the artist for harkening back to the era that inspired their sound. We all may have differing tastes, but the effort that goes into making music should never be dismissed. A trained ear may notice the imperfect production and sometimes repetitive nature of the songs on this album, but that’s not what making music is about. Emotions, vibrations, feelings, these are the things that make us as humans love music. Dispense with the over-analyzation of music reviews, respect the artistry of the sound regardless of how appealing it is to your ears. It’s the least that can be done.

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