Ah, the ‘80s… synthesizers, sex, skinny ties, and snorting. While Reagan and Thatcher were determined to bring the Western world out of the decadence of the ‘60s and ‘70s and into a new age of conservatism, the people were too busy doing blow, having sex, and hoarding technological gadgets to give a damn. Not until AIDS became a “someone-you-know-will-die-from-this” scourge did the party end. And from there, the story only got worse; what began as a decade of avant-garde music and style gave way to the atrocities of hair metal. Then, in the ‘90s, the seeds that Reagan sowed slowly grew into the current age of conservative repression, and the pop music world was dominated by Starbucks-sipping victims of consumerism (any irony there?). Can anyone get this damn party started again? With their new album Times of Romance, the Lovemakers make a valiant, debauched effort. Put on your most mod clothes and be ready to take them off for someone at the end of the night—the Lovemakers party like it’s 1985.
At first, the Lovemakers may not sound like anything unique. After all, their music is firmly rooted in the new wave sound that is currently “new” in the music scene. What’s more, like the rest of the crop of neo-new wave bands, the Lovemakers sport all the latest fashions. Of course, in both the fashion and music worlds, nothing is ever new. Both run in 20-year cycles—long enough for an old trend to lose the stigma of being passé and for a new generation to think a dated idea is original. But the Lovemakers aren’t simply content to be another neo-new wave group. Rather than merely wearing cutesy black suits and mod hairdos, they actually sound like an ‘80s group—not a group referencing the ‘80s. Their music not only captures the neon-pink decadence of two decades ago, it also recreates the sense of abandon and immortality of the MTV generation. Theirs is the sound of pheromones escaping from your pores and permeating the air of the dance club.
Indeed, the one adjective that suits the Lovemakers is sexy. While their music contains plenty of shimmery, computery synth sounds, most of the songs somehow escape sounding merely mechanical. Rather, many of the tracks benefit from the cold, detached sophistication of synthesized sounds, which infuse the music with an air of mystery. “Prepare for the Fight”, for example, begins with incandescent synthesizers and a standard drum beat, but quickly builds to a dance floor anthem that pulsates, gyrates, and blinks. During the chorus, the bass line shifts from a slow, repetitive drone to an unrelenting pound as singers Scott Blonde and Lisa Light take turns handling the vocals, which are at turns pained and ecstatic. The overall effect is both melodramatic and sexy—perfect for a night of drinking and flirting too much.
But the Lovemakers are much more than a band that likes to dance up the ‘80s sound. The songs on Times of Romance display a thorough knowledge of classic pop, and the group knows how to mix and match styles into a coherent whole. “Shake that Ass”, for example, begins with a muted guitar riff straight out of the disco era, settles into a nasty bass groove, then gets downright stanky. Scott Blonde sings in a defiled falsetto, and Lisa Light handles the chorus, which is almost poetic in its candidness: ‘You can have my love / Take my body / You can have anything you want / If you shake that ass for me.” Other songs display the same ingenuity. “Falling Apart” features both acoustic guitar and melodic lead work on the electric guitar, plus a tender lead vocal by Blonde. While Blonde is from California, his voice sounds thoroughly new wave, a pained yelp with traces of a British accent. Then there’s “Times of Romance”, in which Light somehow makes the violin sound nasty. In the end, it’s these unexpected shifts and inconsistencies that make Times of Romance intriguing.
If there’s one shortcoming of the album, it’s that dance songs move the feet much more effectively than the heart. Blonde and Light are former lovers, and their romantic fallout is captured in many of the tracks in gut-wrenching detail. Indeed, a close listen to the lyrics reveals the makings of a screenplay, but the tempo of the music often masks or diffuses the emotional intensity of the words. Still, this is a rather picky complaint. All the tracks on the album are utterly danceable, which is the goal of the Lovemakers—to get people on the dance floor, close together, and gyrating in unison. If you can’t get freaky while listening to this album, you should join an order; you might as well get some credit for your piety. Times of Romance is the sound of your inhibitions being stomped upon by lust.