[16 October 2012]
Blaqk Audio’s new LP Bright Black Heaven induces in me some conflicted feelings. On the one hand, this music is profoundly derivative, and aggressively, relentlessly cheesy. This is one of those special records that provokes feelings of sympathetic embarrassment from the listener; I found myself cringing and giggling to myself at vocalist Davey Havok’s ham-fisted, adolescent declarations far more than is healthy. With Bright Black Heaven, Blaqk Audio have mined European pop music’s deepest, dorkiest recesses to produce one of the most extravagantly saccharine records in recent memory. Blaqk Audio are not just referencing ‘80s synth pop like Depeche Mode and OMD (I was prepared for that), they also evince a deep love for the lamest ‘90s Euro-trance available, bringing the cheese quotient to a whole other level. On the other hand, with all of the above in mind, I must admit that I really like Depeche Mode and OMD, and if I was being really honest, I would admit that part of me very much enjoys the same über-dorky ‘90s Euro-trance that Blaqk Audio are clearly infatuated with. While listening to Bright Black Heaven I found myself rolling my eyes and shaking my head one moment, and pumping my fist ecstatically in the air the next, won-over by Blaqk Audio’s enthusiasm in spite of myself. Blaqk Audio sound like a satanically commissioned combination of Erasure and Alice Deejay. The result is nauseating, but as far as my own very personal tastes in music are concerned, often highly enjoyable.
There is not very much variation to the tracks on Bright Black Heaven and there are probably too many of them; this album might have benefited tremendously from a little bit of pruning. These songs can most effectively be distinguished by the tracks where Davey Havok is doing his David Gahan impression, and the ones where he is doing his Andy Bell impression. The two fellas that comprise Blaqk Audio are also in AFI, which makes a strange sort of sense if you think about it. The same breast-beating teenager-ish declarations of love and longing that are all over AFI’s music can be found throughout Blaqk Audio’s stuff as well. But whereas AFI’s music just seems cheesy and boring, Blaqk Audio’s music is sometimes extremely cheesy, but fun. On the track “Stay Red”, Blaqk Audio hit us with some good old ‘90s era happy hardcore. “Stay Red” is an example of Blaqk Audio at their most enjoyable; nostalgic, ridiculous, earnest, and catchy as hell.
You have to respect the fact that these guys are able to approach this material with what seems like a completely straight face. Bright Black Heaven could have easily succumbed to a sense of “wink-wink” irony, which would have gotten very old very quickly, but Bright Black Heaven usually comes across as deeply melodramatic, yet sincere. Hopefully by this point whoever is reading this will have a pretty good idea if they are going to like Bright Black Heaven or not. If you get a kick out of ‘90s Ibiza anthems and the first Depeche Mode album, than Bright Black Heaven might just put a big, goofy smile on your face; if you are looking for mature songwriting or forward-thinking electronic pop music, Bright Black Heaven is probably best avoided.