What would a band sound like if they were sent back in time like a musical Terminator and produced by Vangelis or Giorgio Moroder? And then maybe asked to soundtrack a movie?
It’s an unusual question, but then POWER is an unusual album in so many ways. It’s stylised, unapologetically so. Gone are many, if not all, the things Twin Atlantic are known for.
What you get is almost an 80’s soundtrack in three acts: Act One is all glitz and shimmer upfront; Act Two offers a more edgy middle, and then things get slightly self-absorbed in the final act. Let’s just say, it doesn’t sound like this movie has the happiest of endings.
Act One incorporates Oh! Euphoria!, Barcelona, Novocaine and Mount Bungo. Oh! Euphoria! opens things up in big style, catchy as (add expletive here) while Barcelona brings the drama, anthemic, shouty and distinctly poppy, which works well when sandwiched between the opener and Novocaine’s life-affirming stomp.
These tracks create visions of all things sparkly and joyous, influences including everything from Youth Lagoon, Twin Shadow and Future Islands to something akin to Pet Shop Boys meet Jan Hammer, only a little more hyper, all making for a heavy synth intro to the album.
The next section feels more like a Twin Atlantic people might recognise, but still dripping in hyper glitzy production. I Feel It Too is a standout moment, a little less polished and a lot more powerful with something of late 80’s Depeche Mode to it, a perfect balance of digital and raw intensity.
Ultraviolet Truth switches back to a cleaner sound, only tonally keeping its edge. Like a slightly angrier sounding Godley & Creme, under the beautiful layers of polish is a distinct sneer, reminiscent of Ladytron’s Seventeen. It’s wonderfully done. In contrast, it’s followed by Volcano, funkier but with an aftertaste of aggression that can’t be resisted.
It’s at this point where things take a distinct turn: Messiah and Praise Me are both excellent tracks but feel like they’re at a very different party, both unbelievably earnest and sombre, both taking their subjects very seriously. This doesn’t feel like the Twin Atlantic of POWER, where they’ve nailed 80’s synth and seem more comfortable when they let loose and sound a little rawer – when the tracks still have some of their edges is when the album gets really exciting.
Not that the production is an unwelcome addition; when these two sides to Twin Atlantic work together they deliver brilliance. But if continuing down this path, they’ll need to be careful to not get lost down this particular rabbit hole, to always keep something of what makes them ‘them’.
POWER is ultimately a fascinating record, with many dimensions, taking us on a real ride around their new sound. And when things fire, they fire hard. If this is new ground, then let’s hope there’s much more to discover.