James gave Nick an album at the start of the month, and now it’s time for Nick to send one the other way. What will James make of Lightspeed Champion’s Falling Off The Lavender Bridge after only the one listen? Read on to find out.
I’ve been fascinated by the career of Dev Hynes, aka Lightspeed Champion, for years, and this was my first introduction to this music. There have been several major left turns across his career so far (have a listen to The Test Icicles, which came before this, or Blood Orange, which came after, if you want to see what I mean), but this variety also comes through really well in his songwriting on this album. The album is consistently beautiful and consistent in it’s genre (I’ll leave you to say what that genre is) but it’s also really odd in the arc of lots of the songs. Hope you can see what I mean, on tracks like Midnight Surprise in particular.
So Nick, I have listened to Test Icicles and Blood Orange before and both are very different. Which means I have no idea what to expect with Lightspeed Champion. Somewhere in between? Pretty sure he appeared in this guise on a Chemical Brothers album, but other than this I’ve not knowingly listened to LC before. Here goes with this album.
And bam. Straight away is the slidey country guitar. I was not expecting that and hope there isn’t much more of it. Just a short intro track though so I’ll write it off.
‘Galaxy Of The Lost’ next and what strikes me first is the very traditional instrumentation. Again I wasn’t expecting this clean piano sound. Although I’m still not sure what I did expect so allow me to continue to contradict myself. There is some more annoying slidey country guitar though which I’m really not in to. Melodically I can hear some parallels with Test Icicles.
You used the words “consistent” and “genre” in your intro and in the next song, even though it’s only the second song proper on the album, I feel like I’m getting an idea of this. Don’t hate me, but ‘Tell Me What It’s Worth’ does remind me of The Magic Numbers a bit. But with the harmonies sung in tune.
You also used the word “songwriting” in your intro. This suggests to me that this album needs more than one listen to truly appreciate what he’s doing with each song. I’m sure I’ll miss something important with just the one chance.
‘Midnight Surprise’, is the track you singled out and it doesn’t start well for me – that country guitar is back. But after only 90 seconds in, I feel like I’ve heard bits of maybe three or four different songs. Not in a disjointed way, they merge together perfectly – it’s still the same song, just going in different, unconventional directions. I think this is what you were getting at so I hope my ears are doing some justice to this album’s songwriting after all. There are also some very familiar chord sequences in this song. Not that it’s ripping anyone else off, but it certainly places it in with some more straightforward indie rock that was out at the same time. Someone like Mystery Jets maybe. I’m not going to stick any genre labels on it though. Just before six minutes in and the biggest switch in the song yet. I had to stop and check if it was indeed the same song. Was this the surprise in the song’s title? After 10 minutes of that song I’m a little exhausted to be honest. I feel like this is a song to close an album not one to appear at this point.
‘Devil Tricks for a Bitch’ does a common, well, trick of some pretty abrasive lyrics set against jolly Fawlty Towers theme tune strings that really makes you sit up and listen. For the next couple of tracks, consistency turns to samey. I’m hearing the influence of The Strokes, which probably explains it, and I switch off a little. ‘Dry Lips’ perks me up again with little bit of mandolin. Love a mandolin. For all the unexpectedness, the country/folk angle to this album has to be the biggest shock.
The last track references ‘Midnight Surprise’ but that was a such a complex song, I’m not sure if he’s repeated, developed or made a call back to that earlier part of the album.
Overall it was a similar experience to my single Blood Orange listen. It’s alright. And I should come back for more listens. But there’s nothing after one listen for me to really grab hold of to draw me back in again. Having said that, I’m glad I listened to it for an article, because it meant I paid more attention than I otherwise would have, and I would have missed the variety and the odd song arcs. There’s more for me to get out of this album, so give me a reasonably forceful shove back in it’s direction at some point.
Words by Nick Parker and James Spearing