There’s a theory of popular music that each decade tends to recycle the sound and influence of two decades before, essentially resulting in artists emulating (and occasionally mutilating) the music they grew up with. In the ’70s, punk bands channelled ’50s surf rock; ’80s groups dabbled in doo-wop and rockabilly; grunge was a reworking of ’70s rock aesthetics; and the decade just gone ushered in a new era of ’80s dance-pop.
It being a new decade, we should be moving on by now (and some bands are – it’s a theory, not a law) but those crazy ’80s really got a hold on us, don’t they? Which brings us to Temposhark, aka Robert Diament, whose second album Threads has got the sounds of his influences pretty well sewn up.
The music is electropop made up of equal parts danceability and almost embarrassing sentimentality – both of which happen to be quite in fashion these days. But there’s not really anything surprising here, and the result is an album that seems to occupy a liminal space: not quite dangerous enough for the indie-dance crowd, and not nearly overproduced enough for pop-radio airplay.
The obvious influences are present, presenting a wide swathe of the genre and, in effect, an unfocussed and largely anonymous sound. But the focal points tend to be A-Ha, Duran Duran and maybe a little Frankie Goes To Hollywood. A few more contemporary sounds creep in from time to time, shattering the illusion, but also saving Threads from being merely a period piece. Bye Bye Baby and Stuck both smack obnoxiously of Justin Timberlake, while Green Lights borrows its melodic lilt from Dashboard Confessional, and Frames even presents some sort of arena-dance-country amalgamate in the style of later era Bon Jovi.
The title track recounts the standard emotional hangups of any lonely social-networking guy, as most of the album does; love and loneliness are Diament’s dichotomous bread and butter. He splices this with lyrics about empty inboxes and a world where “no IMs or friend requests await”. Have our relationships really gotten this trite? How long until we get a concept album about chatroulette?
To be fair Threads is, above all, a pop album, and there will be a considerable contingent of non-mainstream enthusiasts who, should they get to hear it, will embrace it wholeheartedly and lend it indie credibility. But while the songs are catchy, and at rare turns poignant (the quiet closer, The Last Time I Saw Matthew), the album as a whole plays it safe, refusing to stray from proven pop formulas. As such it’s almost instantly forgettable.