What was the subtitle to our interview with Joy Division/New Order bassist Peter Hook? Oh right: “Nostalgia is a funny thing…” This is explicitly true for the nostalgia for Hook’s own past, for that 80’s New Wave sound of which he was at the vanguard. And New York’s Violens are there in the thick of it, adding dashes of Smiths-y hooks and other 80’s British treats. But, as is typical with nostalgia, it can leave you feeling bittersweet. The best moments on the group’s debut LP, Amoral, capture some of that lightning in a bottle and run with it. Other times, though, find the material pretty stale.
The ostentatiously titled first track, “The Dawn of Your Happiness is Rising”, is kind of captivating. The slinky, rollicking bass line that kicks things off, when combined with the sunshine guitar chords evokes The Smiths quite quickly, lead vocalist Jorge Elbrecht floating over the top. The occasional shoegaze electronic flourishes add a depth to the mix that is needed. The jangling of “Full Collision” follows, the reverbed “ah oh” vocals ultimately condensed dose of powdered New Wave. The psychedelic bombast that closes out the track feels unnecessary, throw-away.
The dancey, psych-leaning lead single, “Acid Reign” is like something that particularly apes New Order. Elbrecht’s vocals sit somewhere between a sigh and a croon, as the synth rhythm pounces and rushes through the brush of techno flashes and samples. The down-tempo multi-colored swirls come across like something Yeasayer would do if they had no interest in world rhythms, the falsetto vocals and stuttered instrumentation.
“It Couldn’t Be Perceived” echoes Depeche Mode as much as anything else, the synths turned to their synthiest. There’s nothing insincere in their influences; they’re probably not doing anything to hop onto band wagons or fall into line with their forefathers. The album works its own way out, tracking the music that Elbrech and Co. are fond of and layering it all together into their own little pile. This is obvious from “Violent Sensation Descends”, a 60’s psychedelia throwback that adds its own touches of New Wave, Hammond organ mixing with moaning, reverb vocals. It’s all fairly pop familiar, but remains a fun sugar rush. However, it ultimately remains a side dish rather than a main ingredient.
A bold move would be to try to recover the psychedelia of their early material (and “Violent Sensation”) and mix it with their New Wave leanings in equal parts. Despite the fact that that sentence reads like a dare, I’d wager that’d be something more organic, more interesting, more complex. Not that this is bad; rather, there are some great moments in New Wave revisionism. But, in the end, it isn’t all that memorable, just something fun to toss on every once in a while.