As Cardiff duo Private World have unleash their debut album Aleph, it’s fair to say that they’re making waves. With influences, and stylistic forebears, from Tears For Fears to Talk Talk, their sound couldn’t be any more of a draw for our current retro-fetishistic times.
If you listen to people that were there at the time, the ’80s was pretty rough. Unemployment, strikes, Thatcher, shoulder pads… it all amounts to a fairly tough time for anyone not rich enough to be out of the clutches of the rise of boundless consumerism. However, for those of us who weren’t concerned with the difficulties of that most problematic of decades (because we were too young, or were yet to be born), it’s easy to skip past all the problems and head straight for the highlights – not least the pop music. The ’80s was without a doubt the finest decade for pure pop music, and Private World are here to remind us of just what was so good about it.
Produced by Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard‘s Tom Rees, Aleph is all gleaming surfaces and polished chrome sonics. From the opener, A Private World, to the closer, Jones To Engel (Pierrot), there’s an embarrassment of rich sonic tapestries to immerse yourself in, and not one of them sounds like it doesn’t come directly from the ’80s.
Take Birdy, for instance, which is spacious, open and completely synthetic. It pulls off an incredible feat – maintaining an air of melancholy, but shooting it through with a rich romantic nostalgia. Hypnagogia is beautifully rendered sophisti-pop that’s almost as smooth as Tears For Fears and almost as lovely as Roxy Music… Hell, it even features a positively sultry sax solo for good measure.
As for the rest of the album, there are shades of Simple Minds on Alien Funeral, hints of Peter Murphy on Chasm, and Peter Gabriel on Magic Lens. Elsewhere, you might hear The Blue Nile, or Japan, or The Associates… Anachronistic as it may be, Aleph is a wonderful example of artists recreating the art they love, and doing it with such style that you wouldn’t notice the difference between old and new. Albums like this invite criticism – lack of originality, pointlessness, inferior to the originals – but Aleph successfully navigates those choppy waters and actually comes out looking rather good. They don’t do as much with the sound as, say, The 1975, but they’re less about taking the sound and running with it than they are taking the sound and paying homage to it, lock stock and barrel.
What you get out of Aleph largely depends on what you bring with you when you listen to it. If this kind of pristine pop is your bag, then you’re in for a wonderful ride. If it’s not, give it a miss.