David E Sugar initially made a name for himself as a practitioner of ‘chip-tune’ – a short-lived genre that drew inspiration from early video game soundtracks and revelled in its lo-fi tininess. Now signed to Rob Da Bank‘s label Sunday Best, Sugar has expanded his sound and offered up 10 fully-fledged dance-pop songs on his debut album Memory Store.
Wherever Sugar’s advance went, it certainly wasn’t blown on a lavish recording budget. Memory Store sounds very much like the product of keystrokes and mouse clicks. Those who favour perspiration and passion in their musical performances are unlikely to enjoy Memory Store: the most strenuous act committed by Sugar during its recording probably involved making a cup of tea before returning to his laptop.
No matter: its (presumably) constrained recording circumstances lend Memory Store a sleek economy that benefits the songwriting as well as the production. The hooks on tracks like Keep It Simple and Party Killer won’t win any awards for elegance, but they do the job. The album’s best moments – such as the downtrodden Did You Ever Have A Good Idea, the twinkling Although You May Laugh and the handclap-assisted Flea Market – recall the melancholic neo-baggy of oft-overlooked dance act Grand National.
The Calvin Harris-esque geezerspeak of first single Party Killer – “When you dropped out of your class it was your only lesson / I went over to your house and had a cheeky session” – isn’t, fortunately, representative of the rest of the album. Although the lyrics tend to focus on low-stakes romantic grumblings and post-hedonism ruminations, there is one anomaly: Cambridge Sums, a puzzling song ostensibly dealing with child custody issues that resembles, lyrically and musically, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney‘s much-maligned 1982 duet The Girl Is Mine.
Memory Store isn’t cause for a knighthood like that bestowed on his namesake Alan, but it’s still an unpretentious and enjoyable way to pass 40 minutes.