When thinking about Empire Of The Sun I struggle to think of anyone quite like them. Their out of this world dress sense is really only comparable to Lady Gaga in 2010 whilst their performances and overall aesthetic is so outlandish that no one is on their radar. The eccentric Australian electronic duo return with their third album Two Vines. As a fan of their debut and follow up, expectations were set high. Whilst certainly embracing difference in their appearance, their third album is somewhat a mediocre sameness to what has come before. The latest record is a safe follow up riddled with filler but nonetheless, the album is not all drab disappointment.
Lead single High And Low is one of the high points of the album, and also brings parallels with the debut in that the first half is far stronger than the second. The call and response of “high and low” and “never let you go” ensures the chorus sticks with you straight away and I found myself singing along on the first listen. Steele’s clever diction of Alice D also potentially brings reference to the bands influence; either a somewhat influential illicit substance or a wild child going by the name of Alice, whatever the inspiration, the fantastical music video embodies the duo and reinforces their audio-visual aesthetic. As well, Steele’s romanticism in the first verse highlights a euphoric part of his life drawing a universal emotion from youth, a time which few want to end; “And I want you to know that I’ll always be around, down where the summer and the late nights last forever”. High and Low is infectious and groovy, embodying what a lead single track should be.
Repetition also provides high points, for later tracks, notably Friends and Ride. The former features a somewhat longer hook than normal, but nonetheless just as catchy - “no one ever said that you’d be back here, now I gotta be scared of my friends”. The more dramatic lyrics here contrasts that of the cliché and unoriginal hook found in Ride with a never ending “together we can”. Although on the first few listens this little lick is appreciated, making the song familiar and rememberable, it soon becomes incredibly irritating, tedious and uninspiring. This is potentially the biggest weakness of the album overall; whilst trying to be catchy and distinctive, the record at times has the facade of being frustratingly cheesy through the auto-tuned repetitive hooks and disappointing lyrics. Ride has such great potential to compete with iconic and classic dance tracks but unfortunately falls short.
Revealing a more sombre side than the first two albums, First Crush and To Her Door presents a slightly different approach for the duo. The final track, To Her Door featuring backing vocals and guitar from the legendary Lindsey Buckingham brings strength to the ending. Although melodically a more solemn tone is found, arguably taking away from their previous up-beat pop strengths, this diversion is welcomed. Proving the band is not a one trick pony, Buckingham’s influence does not go unnoticed, the layered guitars having a mild resemblance to some of his work with Fleetwood. To Her Door gradually swells to its climax with no percussive sounds until over one minute in, this being highly distinct from their general approach. Again, somewhat corny lyrics feature, but here they feel far more genuine. Steele sings, “I feel better when we are together, I know it’s simple but I don’t care”; although lacking poetic creativity, Steele admits this and brings a greater sense of honesty and purity to the track.
Whilst expectations may have suffered a dint, Empire Of The Sun continue to deliver an electronic-pop-rock record with little direct comparison to other artists. Whilst undeniably there is a resemblance of MGMT and also Daft Punk, the fusion of styles brings a unique sound. Although melodically the album is disappointing in places, and the auto tuned vocals becomes tedious, Empire Of The Sun’s overall wackiness comes through again in this record, providing a refreshing difference to most music out at the moment.