The initial shock listening to the title track on Lovejoy’s new full length release, Who Want to be a Millionaire? is how utterly moving it is hearing such a well-known and overused phrase repeated over and over against a back drop of haunting guitar-fuelled electronica. It’s especially stirring considering the images that instantly pop to mind along with those words, and how Lovejoy manage to dissolve those images with a soothing, lush melody.
It’s a rare achievement, and one indicative of Lovejoy’s evolving talent. The British popsters who made a name for themselves with the blissful Songs in the Key of Lovejoy three years ago, have created for themselves here a timeless work, decidedly simple, with songs exploring a variety of contemporary themes from individual greed and society’s sanctioning of it, to the middle-class worries of the everyman, and what it means to love and be loved.
Lovejoy’s music is not pop, it’s not rock, it’s not dance and it’s not jazz, though elements of these styles can be found scattered throughout Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. “Nothing Happens Here”, for example, threatens to rock out giving only hints of something harder with it’s ripping guitar work before pulling back to a kind of be-bop-pop-style. “Snow Falling Softly” similarly threatens the big bang with an introduction featuring a hard and steady drumbeat but, instead, moves ever so slowly into a gripping, melodic symphony of guitars, drums and keys repeating the same chorus over and over to mesmerizing effect.
Lovejoy excel, however, when concentrating on one style, usually electronic pop. The album’s best material comes in the purely pop efforts, such as “Night on Earth” and Biff Bang Pow! tune, “The Beat Hotel” with singer, Dick, often channeling Morrissey and The Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler. These songs (including, also, “Plastic Flowers” and “You Fell From Grace”) are sharply rendered, each containing loads of beautiful, calming images—worn out wedding clothes, disco etiquette, Autumn photography, sea spray—throughout stories of exile, frustration and loneliness.
The band’s tendency to lean towards the depressive is also reminiscent of the The Smiths, though they’re (thankfully) not quite as blatantly gloomy. Instead, Lovejoy present lyrics like “Don’t waste your dreams on real life / It will end in tears / Our dreams will disappear / The weeks grow into years / You will come to see / That there’s no happy endings here” (on “Nothing Happens Here”) against a decidedly upbeat backdrop of rolling guitars and heavy percussion, so that you’re not entirely sure if perhaps this depression is something to be celebrated.
This happens again and again on Millionaire, with all vocals remaining at a steady pace adding contentment to the despair. “There must be much more to life than this,” Dick sings on “Night on Earth” in the same fixed monotone as “The sun will shine here anyway . . . It’s maybe time to start again” on “You Fell From Grace”. It’s an intriguing juxtaposition, and while at times overbearing in its predictability, ultimately adds to the album’s sense of calm.
Meditative and relaxed, exploring a greater range of emotion and exposing a new vulnerability, Who Wants to be a Millionaire is an exciting and worthy successor to Lovejoy’s debut.