With a mixed reception greeting Frankmusik's debut album earlier this month, could it be that the nostalgia for all things '80s pop is dying down? Or do we simply prefer our purveyors of such electro-pop to boast breasts? Either way, Tommy Sparks is the latest newbie to have a crack and, being Swedish and all, might just win us over. He's already scored enough cool points to crossover to the scenesters, having collaborated with the Prodigy and Filthy Dukes besides touring with Bloc Party at the start of the year. Roping in producer Mike Crossey, whose CV boasts Arctic Monkeys and Foals, implies Sparks is looking to straddle the line between cred and big hits that his female peers have managed so successfully. Is he up to it?
It's likely you encountered single She's Got Me Dancing this spring, the spiky disco track boasting one of those infectious choruses that likely annoyed as many people as it wooed pop tarts. Opener Much Too Much is much more representative of the album's pervading sound however, going for the same new-millennium-John-Hughes (RIP) vibe Ladyhawke was wowing us with this time last year. You'll hear it in These Things Happen and Kill the Summer but latest single Miracle moulds that same '80s vibe into something akin to Empire of the Sun's starry-eyed stylings, with Sparks deliciously delivering the line 'Falling into the arms of a stranger / Enjoying every possible danger'. The particularly anthemic Brand New Love would be wise choice for next single and enough to make La Roux's quiff droop with envy.
With the album being only ten tracks long, it's unfortunate to report that it's still a hit-and-miss affair. I'm a Rope surprises and merits Mike Crossey's indie credentials, sounding like the Von Bondies powered by synth-dwelling sprites, but Weekends Over possesses a vocoder-fied mess of a chorus that recalls Hellogoodbye (remember them? *shudder*). There's a 'filler alert' lull towards the end as well, with the spacey Velo Arktis preceding Health Club, which is especially lightweight and not even in a time-for-party-poppers Alphabeat kind of way. It's encouraging though that, in a time when '80s synth-pop is so in vogue as to be tiresome, there are still interesting new voices and pop writers showing their potential. Although this self-titled debut is flawed, the spark (har har) is undoubtedly there.
Note: The version of the album reviewed does not include the track Hammer and Filthy Dukes collaboration Messages, which may or may not (insert confused smiley) feature on the final tracklisting.