Australian popsters Savage Garden, one of pop’s most successful duos in recent times, have split up. Daniel has retreated to his studio to write and produce records while Darren Hayes is now a solo artist. Expectations are high for his debut album – and Spin is it.
He’s obviously been listening to his heroes Michael Jackson and Prince. Throughout this record his vocals sound like Jackson’s, but they still manage to retain enough of their own individuality to avoid copying utterly Jackson’s ’80s period. And while Hayes might look totally different to the way he used to in Savage Garden – blond hair and a scruffy beard replacing dark, clean-cut looks – we’ve no reason to think he’s about to change colour.
‘Heart Attack’ is pure Jackson and might have been recorded in tribute to him – even down to the ’80s bassline – and Dirty picks up similar musical themes. It’s like Hayes has a direct line back to ’80s pop culture and has managed to avoid the New Romantics in the process and just stick to what was (dare I suggest this?!) “cool”.
There are some nods here and there to the boyband culture of the ’90s, with I Miss You and I Can’t Ever Get Enough Of You entirely interchangeable with the likes of labelmates a1, while What You Like owes no small debt to David Gray‘s Babylon.
But there is plenty to enjoy here too. Stand-out track and current single Insatiable is pure pop perfection and features some of the slickest, loveliest vocal work to grace the singles chart so far this year. That it sounds just a tad false and saccharine can be put to one side, for Hayes just about manages to produce credible pop and suggests that he’s grown up enough to acknowledge where his musical muse lies. And there’s no shame in being a pop tart if you believe in the music you write and produce, as Hayes clearly does here.
One of the most interesting tracks is also one that blatantly pays tribute to 1980s pop. Crush reminds more of Stock Aitkein and Waterman‘s heyday when they were producing the likes of Kylie and Sonia. Elsewhere, the track that most sounds like Prince is Creepin’ Up On You which could easily be a big single too, with an equally big video to match.
Apart from Jacksonesque “ooos” and “yeahs” everywhere, his vocal range is not only impressive but emotionally involving, which is some feat for something this schmaltzy. You’re not going to get a new philosophy on life from this guy, nor is he going to win awards for his music. But an optimistic, cuddly vibe persists throughout the record and you can’t help but believe that Hayes is genuinely enjoying himself. Yes it is pop, but it is rather good pop. Suspend disbelief and give it a spin.