Michael C Hall’s outfit have made a second album that is packed with a sense of nostalgia whilst also sounding current and vital
Much of the buzz around Princess Goes is focused on the presence of actor Michael C Hall, he of Dexter and Six Feet Under fame. This is, of course, quite understandable; if you have a charismatic celebrity in your ranks, it would be madness not to lean on their status just a little bit. Where Princess Goes differs significantly from other “celeb” projects (Keanu Reeves’ Dogstar springs to mind) is that the band would still garner considerable attention even without his presence. This is not an “actor trying their luck in music” project, but a serious and finely crafted album, created by a trio that just so happens to have one of the more recognisable faces in popular culture in their ranks.
Come Of Age builds on the band’s 2021 debut album considerably by throwing guitars into the mix to add an element of “authenticity” to the classic electro-pop sound they’d already established. The result is a record that finds the band tapping into an aesthetic that anyone familiar with the likes of Depeche Mode, The Human League and OMD will recognise instantly.
Kicking off with Offering, Princess Goes lay their cards on the table quickly. A stomping anthem that takes the band’s usual New Wave stylings and plonks them neatly on the ’90s club dance floor, it’s a blistering opening to the album. Hall’s vocals are at their most raw as he bellows “it’s all for you” whilst the band work their way through a series of peaks and troughs. This is the band at their most exciting and full on.
Let It Go finds the band pushing on as they urge anyone who’ll listen to throw their devices to the wind and abandon fear and worry. The thought of an electro band rejecting technology would have seemed bizarre just a few years ago, but the urge to just disappear and leave paranoia of a world driven by social media and constant connectivity is a modern phenomenon. The song itself has a drive and urgency to it that makes the idea of disappearing seem incredibly attractive. This theme appears a little later on with the gorgeous/tortured Jetpack, a song that compares the imagined future that we were promised back when TV was only black and white to the reality of innovation. Rather than exploring the atmosphere, we are in fact, tethered and our wings have been clipped. These messages run deep on Come Of Age, but because they’re hidden under a swathe of pop gems, they take some time to become apparent.
To say that the band have a way of crafting affecting anthems is something of an understatement. The two first singles from the album are gems. The constant ebb and flow of Blur is perfectly judged, the kind of catch and release thrum of darkened pop that can easily be imagined filling stadiums. Shimmer meanwhile does exactly what it says on the tin, smouldering initially, before shining beautifully. It’s here that Hall’s vocal similarity to David Bowie truly comes to the fore, and once this particular quirk is noticed, the are whole sections of the album that feel like they’ve been beamed in from beyond the veil. Bowie’s influence is in evidence across much of the album. Not that this is a bad thing exactly, but it does become quite distracting at times.
As the album progresses, it calms down considerably. The first half is packed with floor fillers, the second is far more subdued and introspective. The result is an album that sometimes feels a little uneven, but there are still moments of wonder to be found in its quieter moments. Floating is a skittering ballad, that is given to occasional vocal bombast, both wondrous and preposterous in equal measure. Saving Grace’s crooning tale of devotion is quite gorgeous but is at odds with much of the rest of the album (although it does showcase the dexterity of Hall’s vocal ability). Whatever Whispers also has its moments, veering between stripped back beats and catchy chorus.
Come Of Age is a fine album, packed with a sense of nostalgia whilst also sounding current and vital. It might be a little uneven at times, but there’s enough quality across these songs to suggest that should Princess Goes follow Bowie’s innovative lead and his habit for reinvention, there’s a lot more to come from them.