Since their formation in 2011, Berlin-based trio Ballet School have already seen their big, bold, heavily ’80s-infused pop win them plenty of fans. The acclaim that greeted last year’s EP Boys Again was more than enough to ensure that their first album would be greatly anticipated.
The Dew Lasts An Hour is a collection that channels its sound from a range of influences. Obvious comparisons might immediately made with The Cocteau Twins, especially since they’re on the Simon Raymonde-led Bella Union label, but repeat listens will reveal far more about their musical DNA. Sonically, there are times where the guitars are reminiscent of Disintegration-era The Cure but, in terms of the melodies, such influences are far from gloomy. Singer Rosie Blair, whose praises have been enthusiastically sung by Grimes, can belt out choruses in the way that Cyndi Lauper and Madonna did at the peak of their powers. All of this adds up to a very sleek and multi-faceted debut and thankfully its shimmering aesthetic doesn’t diminish the quality of the songs themselves.
From the opening whooshes of Slow Dream, it doesn’t take long for Ballet School to find their feet and the tunes come and go so fast that it commands the listener to keep coming back. Pale Saint is thrilling and All Things Return At Night, with its heavenly backing vocals and steady beat, is immensely enjoyable. Elsewhere, the chorus of Ghost escalates with almost no sign of stopping and the rhythm section is urgent. The same can be said of so many other tracks, like the pummelling Yaoi or the bubbling Heartbeat Overdrive.
There are moments of a more contemplative nature though, and some of them are equally as effective. A re-recorded version of early track Crush is a very lush slow jam, but it’s Cherish that’s the real standout. The drums are at their most powerful, Blair’s vocals are at their most dramatic and the hooks soar triumphantly. It’s a dazzling and spine-tingling trump card. However, with highs this dizzying, the lows are the musical equivalent of a post-sugar rush headache. For instance, Jade feels too restrained and Gray is lacking in the infectious energy that makes most of the album such a joy to listen to; in the overall context, they’re just not exciting, which makes them easily skippable.
Whereas some bands would release a safe debut, Ballet School have taken no prisoners. The Dew Lasts An Hour definitely isn’t a retro record and nor is it a cynical attempt at harking back to a fondly-remembered era. Instead, it is as much a tribute to the artists they love as it is a showcase of their considerable talents. They know their way around a captivating (if not subtle) hook, so whilst it sounds bigger than the sum of its parts, there are enough great songs to justify this super-stylised and fearless approach to pop.