There’s something wonderfully endearing about Empire of the Sun. Their unshakable determination to explore every creative avenue in the most vibrant way possible is refreshing. Theatricality to rival the likes of Lady Gaga, even David Bowie, and the songs to back it up have seen them enjoy massive success since the turn of the decade with songs like ‘Walking on a Dream’ and ‘We are the People’, soaring up the charts around the world. Now the Australian electro-pop duo are back with their third album Two Vines.
Empire of the Sun’s success is down to them being palatable to such a vast cross section of audiences. There’s fist-pumping beats, plenty of synths and drum machines so they appeal to the ethereally-monged whistle blowers of the dance scene but they’ve also got traditionally structured songs for the not so adventurous dial twiddling FM enthusiast. Album tracks for the whistlers, singles for the twiddlers – I’m pretty sure that’s the formula.
‘Friends’ is a cautionary tale of a pharmaceutically enhanced adventure leading to an irrational mistrust of your nearest and dearest. The beat heaves in a very slightly off centre time signature like an asthmatic at a rave trying to catch his breath as lights flash and limbs flail all around. Penultimate track ‘ZZZ’ is another of the albums highlights strutting in on a sparse arrangement of programmed beats before being swept away by the swell of synths.
There are some really nice instrumental touches on this record. Funky angular guitar, some acoustic 12 string in places, flesh on the electro bones. However, there is a lack of genuinely stand out songs. Nothing jumps out, makes you want to skip back and play it again straight away. The tempo changes and synths coming get a little bit predictable. Once that happens some of the songs just morph into each other. There really isn’t anything to rival the two whopper singles mentioned above.
Empire of the Sun started out as a side project for Luke Steele of Sleepy Jackson and Pnau’s Nick Littlemore so they could explore electro together, perhaps the manifesto carries with it limitations. It’s a matter of taste I suppose but using the same or at least very similar effects on the majority of the songs on a record can get a bit tedious. If this electro-pop duo is your duo of choice, Two Vines could be right up your street. If not, there’s probably a couple of tracks that will blow your hair back slightly but the whole record may be just a little bit too uniform.