Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Review: 'Galore' by Dragonette

I've written about glorious debuts before - some bands just nail it straight away. That obviously comes at a price: it's hard if not downright impossible to write a follow-up to a flawless debut. Many of the groups whose debuts I'll review in this series have struggled to top their first albums, and Dragonette is no exception with their 2007's Galore. This is not because their latter albums wouldn't be excellent - they are - but because they went on and wrote a perfect pop album at the first attempt. 'Perfect' is a tricky word, I know, as it implies that nothing could be done better. However, the world we're living in isn't perfect and with an album this good and this close to pure pop perfection I dare to use it.

Dragonette is a Canadian electropop outfit originally from Toronto, currently consisting of Martina Sorbara, the singer-songwriter; Dan Kurtz, the bassist/producer and Joel Stouffer, the drummer. The group formed in 2005 when Sorbara and Kurtz met and started writing music together for fun. Both had musical careers before this: Sorbara had released two folk albums while Kurtz was in the Canadian electronic group The New Deal. The group had quite the start, as they got to open up for New Order, the pioneers of synthpop, on their second live performance. Afterwards the band moved to London, recorded their debut and toured the UK, supporting some fairly obscure acts such as Sugababes and Basement Jaxx (sarcasm, obviously). The latter also recorded a song featuring Sorbara's vocals: the 2006 hit single "Take Me Back To Your House". I know you know that one at least.

That's how I discovered the group actually, I used to be obsessed with Basement Jaxx back in my teenage days. Anyway, the album. It consists of 11 tracks (or 12, if you're lucky enough to have the bonus edition) drenched in sultry electropop with insanely catchy hooks and occasionally sexual lyrics - just like you'd expect from a proper pop record. Three of the songs ("I Get Around", "Jesus Doesn't Love Me" and "Competition") originally appeared on the group's self-titled EP, while two other tracks from the EP ("Shock Box" and "Teacher Teacher") served as b-sides for the Galore singles "I Get Around" and "Take It Like A Man", respectively.

"I Get Around", the lead single, the album opener and one of the first tunes the group wrote is an uptempo electronic song with catchy synth riffs and features the great singalong line "Here I come when I better go / I say yes when I ought to say no". The song is one of their best-known songs to date (well, disregarding the bubblegum popper that is "Hello" - yeah, that's her as well - but that's a Martin Solveig song anyway). Another single released from Galore is the absurdly amazing pop tune "Take It Like A Man". It's infectious, as a pop song should be, yet not coated in saccharine and also has a deeper feel to it. Not only does it have wonderful lyrics with Sorbara lamenting an immature guy unable to face the realities of life like a man, but it's also accompanied by a hilarious Boogie Nights-inspired music video:

However, the thing is, virtually any of the songs could've been released as a single which is why I truly adore the album. "Competition", for instance, is a memorable pop tune about the life of a secret mistress ("Your girlfriend's got competition / She's got competition") with way too many brilliant lines to quote but my favourite's the following one: "She's got no idea where you've been / no idea what you've been doing / In the bedroom, in positions / that she never knew existed". So yeah, the mistress of the song is a complete bitch but the song is awesome nevertheless, and also has a surprising increase in tempo mid-song as it builds into a pop-rock stomper. Dragonette's style has been described as "The Killers fronted by Gwen Stefani", which does sound fitting on these songs. The group has also been compared to Scissor Sisters, a band that does indeed come to mind when listening to the fantastic "True Believer".

Continuing with the theme of sultry electropop songs there's "Jesus Doesn't Love Me" and "Black Limousine". The former is their personal 'sex, drugs & rock n' roll' anthem about the downside of leading a naughty life: "Got a little bit of dirty down in my soul / Jesus doesn't love me anymore / Sinning for living's really taking its toll / Jesus doesn't love me anymore". The song is also more guitar-driven than rest of the album, showing the group's edgier side. The latter is an equally racy tune about "a woman of taste / and a girl with true ambition" who craves extravagance and has found a way to acquire it in exchange for her, well, services: "We got the time for a little bit of luxury / You're paying for my company, babe". It's quite an interesting tune with some spoken word vocals and trademark Dragonette instrumentals. It also holds a special place in my heart as it was the first song of theirs I started listening to. Last December I saw them in Helsinki and boy was I happy when they randomly played it and I got to hear it live as well.

But it's not all raunchiness, though. There's "Another Day", a beautiful, dreamy ballad about a person trying to reach another on the phone but with no success. Essentially, it's like a love story sung to an answering machine. Another ballad is the powerful "You Please Me" which has a lover wistfully reminiscing an old flame and, more precisely, the physical side of it all: "You can keep me out of your sight, that's alright / You can keep me out of your mind, even though / I know we're done you keep on turning me on". Then there's the overly cute retro pop number "Get Lucky" (no, it has nothing to do with Daft Punk) that gleams with sunshine and rainbows and an adorable happy-go-lucky chorus: "'Cause I like your head on my shoulder / I like the way you smile, oh oh / We both think the weather's getting better / So let's get lucky, let's go all the way".

"Gold Rush" is a perfect example of how solid the album is: even though it's 'just' an album track and neither a dance tune nor a ballad, it still couldn't be further from a filler. As a matter of fact, there's not a single song on the album that could be classified as a filler, and all songs deserve to be on this marvellous album. And speaking of marvellous, that's also the title of the album's last song, which is an intoxicatingly infectious Bollywood-tinged number that you just can't help singing along to or gyrating your hips to or whatever it is that you do when you're taken over by great music. The bonus version of the album also has a tongue-in-cheek gender-swapped cover of Calvin Harris's "The Girls", titled "The Boys". 

With albums like this it is sometimes difficult to understand how it's even possible for a band to record such a flawless album immediately. Sure, musically speaking it might not stand out as much as many of its influences do - I mean, it's not necessarily groundbreaking as such - but it's still amazingly good. Even at the risk of overusing the word, the catchiness of the songs is nearly incomprehensible: every song has you instantly hooked, yet withstand a lot of excessive listening. A lot, trust me. The synth-laden record showcases the band as excellent writers of remarkable pop lyrics and incredible melodies that will dig their way into your subconscious and remain there for the rest of the day. To some of you the album could be 'just pop' and so be it, but to me, it's like a Platonic idea of 'pop', you know, something that most of the other artists only strive to achieve. Big words, yes I'm aware of that, but Galore is just that sensational as a pop album. If pop music these days was less about twerking and shock value and more like this, the world would surely be a better place.

5 / 5

Try at least: "Take It Like A Man", "Jesus Doesn't Love Me", "I Get Around", "Competition", "Marvellous"

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