M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
It is a truth universally acknowledged that in the post-YouTube world of everything-all-the-time access to popular culture the concept of “cool” – as opposed to “fashionable”, which is another thing entirely – is all but redundant. This is not always the unequivocal Good Thing it might at first appear to be – ladies and gentlemen, I give you the inexplicable success of Bumford and Cunts, an act for whom the epithet “hideously uncool” might have been invented – but in general our planet is a healthier corner of the galaxy now that we no longer need detain ourselves with questions along the lines of whether it’s OK to like Abba.
It is a truth almost as universally acknowledged – except possibly in France itself – that the French never gave a camel’s arse for the rest of the world’s definition(s) of “cool” in the first place. We could try all we liked to explain to them that although, yes, we’d have to admit that the son et lumière of Jean-Michel Jarre was kind of impressive it was also kind of ridiculous, and they’d simply raise a louche middle finger before getting back to the important business of fucking their sister/grandfather/horse while eating a truffle. And, you know, good luck to them, absolutely: it was precisely this insouciance that elevated the early work of Daft Punk, Phoenix and – yes – M83 above pretty much everything the Anglophone contingent had to offer at the time.
So far, so good. Relativism isn’t only tempting because it allows us to be lazy. It opens our minds, enables us to try on other perspectives for size. But in aesthetics, as in ethics, we must find our own limits or we’d find ourselves agreeing that, while infibulation and/or U2 might not be to our own taste, other people seem to like them so what the hell, live and let live. But no. Such cultural practices must be strongly discouraged, with the eventual aim of eradication. It is a truth even more universally acknowledged than either of the universally acknowledged truths above that you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. And, much as it pains me to jump ship on the Versailles massif after all this time, I’m drawing mine roughly a third of the way through Hurry Up We’re Dreaming.
Double albums are necessarily somewhat hit and miss. That’s part of their pick’n’mix charm. But M83 mostly miss me here. For each post-‘Kim and Jessie’ slice of pungent eighties-rehabilitation pop cheese (‘Midnight City’, ‘New Map’) there are two tracks that sound just how you’d imagine eighties Genesis (I did briefly consider actually listening to some eighties Genesis to corroborate this, but as I’ve said you’ve got to draw the line somewhere). For each enjoyably blatant Lemon Jelly rip (‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire’, ‘Year One’) or modest Eno-recalling interlude (‘Where The Boats Go’, ‘’Another Wave’, both of which echo ‘The Big Ship’) there’s a track where you fully expect Jim Kerr to descend from the gods hooting and dressed as a flower. And for every reminder of the ineffable power of “uncool” in the right hands (Propaganda’s relatively unsung 1985 classic A Secret Wish comes to mind, as does Felix Da Housecat) there’s something that sounds like it was left off The Final Cut because the bloke with the funny face out of Level 42 was playing the bass.
Gentle readertards who would prefer to live in a Teletubby world where people only ever write about things they have already decided to like may breathe easy here. Honest guv, I was up for this. Certainly I wouldn’t concur with the ORAC-twiddling Radiohead fanboy contingent who thought Saturdays=Youth represented a dilution of the M83 aesthetic. More pop is usually a Good Thing in my book. But here the impulse is more towards the portentous, Fairlight-raddled, heart-on-sleeve vacuity of mainstream eighties transatlantic rock-lite than the indie stylings of that album or the more songlike portions of its predecessors, and I’m afraid it mostly leaves me cold.