St. Lucia – [Album]

Friday, 11 October 2013

Ever get the impression that you're re-living a part of your life which you'd just as soon forget about? Most of those sorts of feelings revolve around pop music from the Eighties for me; granted, there was a fair bit of really great music recorded during the period of time when the “Me” Generation was ruling the cultural roost (most of it could be found in the underground – to my taste), but there was an inordinate amount of tripe in that time too – and a lot of it employed synthesizers. To contend that the time period had a negative effect on me is just a given; to this day, I cannot listen to two out of three of the albums that Paul Simon released in the Eighties, I refuse to acknowledge of all the music composed by Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Frank Zappa during “that” decade at all, and I continue to laugh at the popular but pitifully fey hard rock and metal efforts which came off the West Coast of the U.S. –  especially the stuff which was made while the songwriters were sporting spandex. It might just be a matter of personal taste, but my opinion is the one being addressed in this review.

So why am I going on a tirade expressing my distaste for an ill-fated musical decade now thirty years gone? Because When The Night – the debut full-length album by Jean-Philip “St. Lucia” Grobler – sounds like it was pulled directly out of that horrid pop cultural wasteland and proves that a modern musician was perverted (okay, okay – “influenced”) by it in even just existing.

Readers who think I'm being overwrought but also feel that the music of the “Me” Generation's heyday was pretty abhorrent will have to begrudgingly admit that I'm not overstating the similarities between When The Night and the pop thirty years its senior when they hear “The Night Comes Again,” When The Night's opening cut. There, soft pabulum masquerading as World Music (with all the requisite synths) opens the curtains on what is probably supposed to be a sweeping sonic landscape replete with staccato, hard-panned keyboards, fat (like, greasy) electro-bass, chorus effect-touched (but otherwise perfectly clean) guitars and a voice similar to what one might expect Peter Cetera to sound like – were he from South Africa. Some listeners will run immediately for the hills in shock and revulsion as the song builds and then tries to pounce on them in all its faded, synthetic majesty, but some braver souls will find themselves perversely curious to see where St. Lucia's trainwreck is heading. They'll wonder, “Is this beginning a poorly executed attempt at irony? I must know!” and they'll hang around to find out.

Unfortunately, there is nothing viciously ironic to be found on When The Night. After “The Night Comes Again” concludes its wretched cycle, songs like “The Way To Remember Me” (where the singer keeps telling listeners that “This is the way that you remember me” even though many are already trying to forget him), “We Got It Wrong” (self-explanatory), the acid house-for-beginners throwback “September” and “Elevate” (the closest approximation to a good song on the album, and it sounds like a cast-off from Paul Simon's Graceland) all meander along different (but consistently anachronistic) lines but never get anywhere positive, and the running eventually gets boring just because nothing is really attention-grabbing for more time than it takes a listener to discover that what they're hearing isn't good. To say that it's kind of pitiful feels redundant, but there's no other way to accurately sum it up.

By the time the album's title track spins in to close the proceedings out, those few listeners who managed to make it all the way through When The Night's run-time will feel like they should be applauding their own effort more than St. Lucia's because Grobler just made the record – listeners endured it. That isn't to say the St. Lucia won't be capable of making great music, only that this beginning it a thoroughly awkward one.



When The Night
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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