Release Date: September 2nd, 2016
Label: Noyes Records
The spirit of the 1980s is alive and kicking, as a few listens to ‘100% Sunshine’ will bear out. The sounds of UK post-wave resonate with glimpses of The Cure, Gene Loves Jezebel and Echo & The Bunnymen (heck, I’d even throw U2 in there). But to say a band is evoking a certain era is lot different than to say they are copying it. Pastiche is fine (especially as a form of tribute) but that is not what singer/guitarist Tyson McShane and company are striving for. Not only is the music transmuted by viewing it through a modern 2016 lens, but it is also energized by a contemporary passion, not a fervour based on nostalgia.
“New Release”, for example, has that saturated wall of sound that producers like Steve Lillywhite were famous for, plus it has a similar energy to many of the arena bands of that era. On the other hand, it is much edgier and heavy than almost anything around back then (The Cult excluded) and the vocals are drenched in paranoia and uncertainty, reflecting perhaps more introspective and sombre times than the carefree ‘80s. “Ghosts & Vodka” is more along the lines of gothic post-punk, with its spidery synths and ghostly vocals. Again, however, there is more urgency than fun in the screeching guitar work, seemingly more intent on snapping you out of your reverie than adding to it.
It’s not completely an ‘80s show, of course (the aforementioned “Ghosts & Vodka” contains a lot of psychedelia for one thing). ’90s-style shoegaze is prominent, as well as much more current alt/noise pop (e.g. “Night Terrors”). The least backward-looking track of all (and an album highlight) is interestingly enough sung by keyboardist/backing vocalist Jeanette Stewart. Calling “You Made Me A Ghost” contemporary is perhaps not quiet accurate, as it floats like a feather suspended in both space and time, with Stewart’s ethereal voice drenched in reverb and backed by an ambient drone.
Essentially, the bright sheen of ’80s pop is merely a facade hiding a grimmer base of darkwave, shoegaze and noise/grunge, in the same way that the album’s title gives a false impression of rosy optimism. McShane’s vision is one of disillusionment, with edges that are gloomy and even sinister. With the music on ‘100% Sunshine’ he lulls you with promises of buoyant retro-gazing, until it is too late and you are caught up (by this time willingly) in his dark web.