Album Reviews

Chungking – Stay Up Forever

(Institute) UK release date: 2 July 2007

Remember how Goldfrapp were once known as a chillout band? When all the tracks from Felt Mountain found themselves creeping onto TV adverts and holiday programmes?

Well, something on a smaller scale happened to Chungking after their second album, The Hungry Years. Making Music in particular found itself coveted by down tempo DJs, a song suited to many a blissful Mediterranean compilation.

Yet now Chungking – Sean Hennessey and vocalist Jessie Banks – are taking a similar route to their peers. It’s a convenient time to be doing so, since Goldfrapp are between albums. The musical styles are similar, at times only just different enough for the Brighton pair to evade any accusations of being copycats. Thankfully some flexibility on their part ensures that while a 1980s glam often comes to the forefront, they try other things as well.

Stay Up Forever is their party album. While The Hungry Years found them sipping cocktails in thirty degree heat by the pool, this is far more upfront, necking a few liveners in the first few tracks as the single Love Is Here To Stay in particular makes a bid for the big stage. While this is most obviously derivative track on the record, it confirms that Chungking are ready to take into account recent pop trends – Scissor Sisters included – and attempts to twist these trends into their own style.

When it works, the songs are memorable and demand instant replay. Itch & Scratch is the first to press all the right buttons, with its entreaty to “take me down town where they’re playing those sounds, we want to lose control”. Baby’s multi layered chorus celebrates the first flushes of love unashamedly. Cool electronica works well for the duo too, and Beautiful Inside and Slow It Down benefit from stripping back the texture in the verses.

The only thing that prevents Chungking from making a bigger impact is inconsistency, and the feeling that they’re just trying a bit too hard. The title track boasts of having not slept for four whole days, of “running on empty need to dream”, but doesn’t have the musical clout to go with its lyrical conviction. I Love You is a ballad that harks back to The Hungry Years, but brings the spectre of Goldfrapp to the fore once again – it’s inescapable in the end.

To sum up then, a record that can stand on its own two feet at the best of times, offering some genuinely euphoric first hand displays of pop music with a touch of glam. Less playing to formula might have seen it move into the heavyweight division, but for now you’ll have to be content for staying up a little while, if not forever.

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More on Chungking
Chungking – Defender
Chungking – Stay Up Forever
Chungking – The Hungry Years
Chungking – We Travel Fast