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B-Movie Lightning

Rain on a River

(Micropolis; US: Import; UK: 1 Jun 2011)

B-Movie Lightning is the project of Irish musician Mike Smalle, also of electronic group Cane 141. At its best, Rain on a River—Smalle’s debut as B-Movie Lightning—recalls the sun-drenched, effervescent synthpop of that Galway-based group. Opener “Triple Trouble” is a particular highlight (and obvious single), buoyed by hiccupping synths, bright horn flourishes, and an especially infectious vocal line. “The Spooky West” and “A Country Mile” offer up equally appealing, if weightless, slices of electro-pop, the latter stretching into a moody, synthetic instrumental postlude. 

The album outstays its charm, though, with many of Smalle’s songs dragging past the four-minute mark. At its worst, Rain on a River sounds like the sort of hollow, tuneless electro-pop anyone could compose with the right synth pads. The instrumental “Theme From B-Movie Lightning” is particularly illustrative of this: 4/4 drum programming, layered Casio-style synth lines, and cringe-worthy processed vocals, with hardly a unique melodic idea to be found. “Theme” is the weakest track here, but nothing on Side B offers much of anything new instrumentally or melodically. For now, I’ll keep spinning “Triple Trouble”.


Zach Schonfeld is a writer and former associate editor for PopMatters and a reporter for Newsweek. Previously, he was an editorial fellow at The Atlantic Wire and graduated from Wesleyan University, birthplace of Das Racist, MGMT, and the nineteenth-century respiration calorimeter, where he served as the editor of Wesleying, a popular student-life blog. In his spare time, he enjoys visiting presidential birthplaces and teaching his dog to tweet. In addition to PopMatters, his writing has appeared online at Rolling Stone, TIME, Consequence of Sound, The Nation, USA Today College, The Columbia Journalism Review, The Rumpus, Paste Magazine, and the Hartford Courant. He can be reached at zschonfeld(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter @zzzzaaaacccchhh.


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