Admitting it in more hip circles may be difficult, but Anthony Gonzalez (the man behind M83) may have to thank Made In Chelsea more than anything else for his success this side of the Atlantic. As the lead single to Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, the success of ‘Midnight City’ was an odd career-jumping anomaly in the timeline of M83’s work. They had happily plugged away as a mid-level hipster concern in the noughties, creating dreamy shoegaze songs rather than big synthpop numbers as background for the sexual lives of socialites. However, the dreamy days are gone.
To use a slightly overworn (yet Leeds-specific) metaphor, if HUWD was the Good Life the night before, then Junk is the brutal Saturday afterwards. It has its moments, with ‘Go’, one of the singles from the album, having a lovely guest vocal from MAI LAN, a huge chorus (which will sail over festival crowds for the entire summer) and probably the best guitar solo not written by Guns ‘n Roses for quite a long time. ‘Tension’ and ‘Solitude’ are similar examples of where M83’s nostalgia for the 1980s actually works very well, both sounding like perfect replicas of songs that could be right out of the Duran Duran back catalogue.
But a lot of the songs can’t help just feeling a bit hollow, with songs like ‘Bibi The Dog’ and ‘Moon Crystal’ feeling like rehashes of better songs. Even collaborations with Beck and Susanne Sondfor on ‘Time Wind’ and ‘For The Kids’ fail to hit the mark with both feeling like the kind of thing you’d hear near the back-end of an 80s night on a Thursday in Carlisle. It’s not that many of these songs are bad per se, but it’s more that they lack enough feeling to even compare earlier works like ‘Coeleurs’ and ‘My Tears Are Becoming A Sea’. It feels as if M83’s attempt to evoke the music of a certain time fails to hit the mark partly because they can never hit the scale or the vision of HUWD’s peaks.
It says the most of all that the best song on the album is one that lacks any nostalgia at all. Lead single ‘Do It, Try It’ with its stabbing house piano and off-kilter synthesisers is a left turn that M83 execute to perfection. It’s a genuinely risky song, one that had many people surprised and disappointed, and it’s a shame that that feeling of risk fails to carry over onto the rest of the record. Still, at least the cover’s cute.