This review was originally published to The Edge on 18th September 2016
By the tenth time in Goldroom’s West Of The West that a song title wriggles its way into the lyrics immediately before the standard EDM drop, like an overeager BASE jumper pushing through a crowd and doing star jumps to wave goodbye as they throw themselves off a cliff, you’d be excused by anyone for laying blame for this at the feet of the critic’s favourite: darned, lazy formula! Yet a formula is not inherently bad.
Opening track ‘Silhouette’ manages to do the right thing with it – take a simple structure, a proven format, and build more unique and attention-catching melodies upon it. Full of finger clicks, hand claps, a consistent snare beat, and twangy guitars backed by a pleasantly throbbing bassline, it’s pretty standard fare; it’s also got the playful energy of an adolescent sat in front of GarageBand for the first time. Before they’ve figured out how to maximise the parts they already have, they’ve found new ones to throw into the mix. It sounds bad, but the song is fresher, more upbeat for this. It contrasts oddly with the very restrained, yearning lyrics: a constant refrain of “Without you” every two bars or so in the verse, the sentence finishing before the drop as “Without you I’m a silhouette!”
The whole album alternates between this overzealous, endearing production, and more restrained, consistently more vanilla arrangements. For the more modernHONNE-esque slap-guitar riffs and the clumsy, subdued seduction of ‘Freeway Lights,’ there’s the plain pleasantries of ‘Back To You.’ Its apathetic use of the EDM structures introduced over half a decade ago ensures it has no memorable moments of its own. Unlike ‘Silhouette,’ the production is too consistent to be particularly colourful, and lyrics like “Racing fast but the nights go slow / It’s heavy on my soul” are delivered with no commitment to their (possibly accidental) poignant reflection on unrequited love.
There’s only one song that feels entirely sincere in its use of these tropes on the whole record. Fourth track ‘Lying To You,’ one of several that leans on 80s synths, has a terrific guitar-led bridge. It builds up to a simple chorus – “I’d be lying if I said / You’re not always in my head / Yeah, I’d be lying to you” – and it feels like a hit in waiting with the cheesy, limp lines delivered with commitment by Goldroom (Josh Legg) himself. But when this earnest, yet tame and predictable track is the best you’ve got amidst a sea of duller moments, it’s hard to be anything close to excited.
West Of The West is released on September 25th by Downtown Records