With Diver Lemonade attempt to bridge electro-pop with EDM and come close to succeeding.
Lemonade is an interesting act that immediately stands out. It’s a trio of guys who are seemingly as into Paul Van Dyk as they are Hot Chip and have no problems presenting themselves as such. There’s also strange ‘90s boy-band and mainstream pop influences seeping through, seemingly in an effort to become even more accessible. That they don’t commit themselves to the normally soul-crushingly boring EDM genre is to their credit. There’s no doubt that they’ll receive a lot of respect for deviating from that genres constraints, while still being able to fit neatly within its folds. They understand arrangements and that not everything has to operate on the exact same beat. With Diver Lemonade seems to have worked out that not everything has to be a marathon.
Unfortunately, while Lemonade do stand out from several of their contemporaries, they still haven’t quite made the jump out of EDM. Several of the genre’s standard-bearers are still intact. There’s the distracting, grating, electronic percussion that drains the life out of songs like “Eye Drops” and “Sinead”. Many of these songs, those two included, had potential to be standout songs and set up Lemonade as a potential crossover success. Sadly, they seem to have a stranglehold on several unsavory elements that leaves the songs feeling cold and emotionless. Normally, this wouldn’t be much of a complaint but these songs have more potential than usual. Lemonade’s songwriting is well above par for the kind of music they play and they have an impeccable grasp on arrangement, it’s just that they filter the arrangements in the least unique ways.
Diver is at its best when it dabbles with the most unconventional things. There’s moments littered across the record that are genuinely exciting but frustratingly brief. A song like “Whitecaps”, when taken apart, features several stunning moments that lose almost all of their effect when packaged together with sounds and ideas that have been run into the ground for over a decade. However, those songs do end up standing out as the highlights because even the diminished impact can’t be completely ignored and even the slightest change of pace is worth noting. It’s not that Diver isn’t a fascinating or potentially important transitional kind of record, it’s just that it’s so bogged down in tradition that those aspects will only emerge after being severely dulled.
The most experimental Diver gets is, intriguely, in its mid-section. Usually the heart of the album is the most indicative of what it has to offer and a place where bands generally veer away from experimentation. A lot of bands also have a tendency to front-load records and a few even pull out all their stops in the final stretch. Diver‘s strongest moments come in the middle and none are stronger than the eerie and seductive “Vivid”. In “Vivid” is where Lemonade really demonstrate remarkable potential. Dance music has had its share of ambient tracks but rarely do they get this dark. A xylophone-like effect and a small girl’s voice drift in and out of the songs surprisingly stunning first half. When the song transitions back to more usual terrain in its second half, it still retains the intrigue from the first and is carried through to its end. I’ts Diver‘s weirdest and best moment and most fully reveals Lemonade’s promise.
Overall, Diver essentially comes off as a first step, which is an undeniably important one in terms of reaching a final goal but largely inconsequential. While it may be worth a small celebration, it won’t be worth much more. Lemonade seem to be setting a pretty solid example with their genre-meshing and dedication to not being completely conventional and one can only hope others take their cue. On its own, however, Diver isn’t a whole lot more than a potentially thought-provoking record rife with as many missteps as it is original ideas helping it emerge as just above average.
// Notes from the Road
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