Well, here’s an interesting coincidence. I had already planned to mention in this review that Darwa reminds me of Venus Hum, whose self-titled album I reviewed for PopMatters earlier this year, and similarly featured a female vocalist and synthesizers. The coincidence is that I discovered in preparing to write this review that both albums were released on the same day. (Okay, probably pretty meaningless. But you have to start these reviews with something.)
The difference is, Venus Hum were ultimately irresistible; Darwa are more problematic. They’re not bandwagon jumpers—if recreating the new romantic/wave era were a bandwagon, mine would be a merrier world indeed—but neither is their songwriting/arranging skill developed enough to put them across the finish line.
Club/dance, electronica grooves (with overly familiar, synthetic drum beats) are marred by thudding melodies and gibberish lyrics. Songwriter and singer Darja Klancar’s is better at cooking up backing tracks with partner Mario Maroit than at lyrics or (especially) compelling melodies. “Make Your Own” and “Freaky Factory” are particularly lacking in these (To be fair, English is not her mother tongue. To be honest, it wasn’t Larry Gelbart’s or Tom Stoppard’s either, and they seem to have coped.).
The production certainly doesn’t need to be any more polished, in fact, on some songs like “In the Meanwhile”, it could probably stand to be a little less so (when you make Stephen Hague sound punk, it’s a sign of something). Some remixing might not hurt either—the Brothers in Rhythm or Chemical, or Trevor Horn or, as long as I’m fantasizing on Darwa’s behalf, Pet Shop Boys themselves.
There are, of course, songs and then there are records. A dull song can still make for an exciting record (I’ve said this before) but it is, finally, the songs that separate the grown-ups from the kids in pop music. Unfortunately for Darwa, they are in the position of reminding me how good another band (Venus Hum) is. But all is not lost. If, as the rock writer Chuck Eddy has written, album-ending songs predict the future, Darwa may break free of their current limitations in an album or so. The last two tracks, the fun “Imagination” and “Now and Then” are the best.
Promising, but greatly flawed, Darwa do show glimmerings of hope for improvement. But, honesty compels me—I don’t await their next all that anxiously.