Australia is good for only two things: Kangaroos and Dannii Minogue. There is no debating this absolute fact of life. However, it seems the country can now add another element to their growing list of things that are good: Glam-rock dance-pop music. After primary trailblazing efforts by fellow Sydney artists The Presets, Cut Copy, and Sneaky Sound System made way back in ’07 and '08, the members of Empire of the Sun are now rapidly charting their way into a reg'lar Australian Invasion this side of the Hemisphere.
Luke Steele of The Sleepy Jackson and Nick Littlemore of Pnau are the musical masterminds behind Empire of the Sun, a glam-dance-rock outfit on the brink of something brilliant. And judging by the rather eccentric garb the duo dons, the word "outfit" isn't to be taken lightly–The band's seriously bringing the Bowie like no one's business. Don’t believe me? Take one look at their video for the first single “Walking On A Dream” and tell me you don’t feel like you’ve just slipped into a scene from Labyrinth.
“Standing on the shore waiting for the ship in call,” Steele calls out from the inception of “Standing On The Shore,” the chiseled ‘80’s opener to their debut album. Blaring synthesizers and coolly strumming electric guitars fill out the contents of the track, a moderately paced nod back to the ‘80’s that jets past intergalactic adventures, ghosts of days past, and the deep blue sea, all set to the tune of a Beach Boys-esque swaying chorus.
The album’s first single, "Walking On A Dream," follows shortly thereafter, a soothing, synth-fused stroll somewhere between the lines of the Arcade Fire and Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time.” It’s an obvious choice for a single, as is the infectious “We Are The People,” another standout track featuring a summery, '90's rush of cool energy recalling Jennifer Paige's "Crush." (Remember her?! Me neither.) Similarly, much of the album flourishes within a seductive landscape of vintage electro-swagger and guitar strums, including a particularly blissful instrumental called “Country” which carries out the latter half of the album in a particularly luxurious fashion. It's only on the album’s soggier moments with songs like “The World” and "Without You" that the band teeters too far into nostalgia, playing like the quintessential background song from that prom scene in every 1980's teen comedy–ever. “I get that feeling when we’re apart / I get the teaching that I can’t be without you / Without you babe.” Oh, please…save it for someone else.
But don’t worry, not everything's taken quite so seriously here: "Delta Bay" lifts the robot out from Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and adds a few hand claps into a mix of boisterous instruments, while the plop-happy "Swordfish Hotkiss Night" and its squishy, hook-heavy contents promises to slosh 'round your mind long after the band’s impressive debut fades from your speakers. Then there’s “Tiger By My Side,” which features an impressive bout of tongue-tying lyrics set to stimulate the brain: “Television changing channels / Telling people wearing flannels / Culture shocking, walkways to the shore.” I don’t quite get that one yet, but I remain nonetheless entertained.
Though the bulk of Empire of the Sun’s debut makes deference to the hit music makers who did it best back in the day, the boys have still carved themselves a path to the future with this release. It is a modern as it is a homage; an interesting concoction of bouncy electro noises and echoey vocals.
So board up the windows, take stock of the children, and hide the Vegemite—the Aussies are coming.
Bradley Stern is a contributor here at Pretty Much Amazing. Be sure to check out his blog MuuMuse for his daily musings on pop music.