The eighties is a much-misunderstood period. It was a time of massive musical creativity as the barriers kicked down by the punks the decade before were trampled into the dust in a rush to explore technology, possibility and potential. It was a time when pop music got serious and created a wonderful hybrid of music that slowly evolved into Indie and goth and neo-psychedelia and New Romanticism and shoegaze and math-rock and anything you could stick an “alt” or a “post” in front of.
They say if you remember the 60’s you weren’t really there. Well, if your memories of the eighties are of leg warmers, shoulder pads and acid washed jeans then you weren’t there either, or you where but you weren’t stood next to me in a muddy festival field watching Killing Joke wearing a “Coal not Dole” T-shirt. But if you really want to know what the decade sounded like, you can hear the ghosts of it flit around in the songs on The Suburbs latest album.
Since the band reconvened a few years ago they somehow sound more part of the 80’s than ever, the combination perhaps of modern studio capability, older, wiser heads and maybe the feeling that there is nothing left to prove has made for a polished, layered and slightly darker vibe at the albums core. But it is the wonderful textures that they wrap it in that tell you more about where the band has been as where it is going. A Bowie-esque quirkiness, a new-wave pop sensibility, an elegance often missing in bands of today plus all the benefits of knowing just what happened between the then and the now.
The result is an album that mixes echoes of their youth with the hindsight afforded by writing your own second act; they haven’t lost the ability to make widescreen alternative pop and now they get to do it from a more informed position. If the eighties hadn’t existed and you were tasked with writing its soundtrack based on what you hoped it was like, you would probably come up with an album that sounds a lot like Hey Muse! And that’s not a bad accolade to have bestowed upon your work.