Golden Silvers: True Romance

Photo: Rebecca Miller

There are dark clouds always lurking amid True Romance's ostensibly sunny veneer of idealistic romanticism.

Golden Silvers

True Romance

US Release: 2009-08-04 (limited edition)
Label: XL
UK Release: 2009-04-27
Digital release date: 2009-07-07

In Britain, this summer has been a sickly one. The Met Office prophesied a "barbecue summer", but we've had nothing but a whitewash of rain for two months now. It is grey, dank and dreary. People hurry out the grills and steaks at the slightest sign of a sunny day, eager to salvage something before the leaves evolve an autumnal rust, only to scurry indoors burdened with sodden burgers when the downpour belatedly arrives. The pubs are empty, would-be punters opting to save their pounds and remain home, where they are projected a steady stream of teenagers returned from Afghanistan in body bags. Add in the wounded economy, the decimated trust in the individuals tending to it, and the on-off battle between knives and guns to be the media's seasonal idée fixe, and its raining shit. Figuratively speaking.

Wherever Golden Silvers reside, however, -- and one is driven to imagine a commune of lavish color, floridly decorated, and cluttered with gaudy furniture and the occasional ball-pool -- the sun is shining. OK, this may not be meteorological fact, the trio are based in London, but it sure as hell sounds like it. Listen to their maiden album's lead single and title-track, and you'd have to be in the midst of a cavernous depression not to be uplifted. It's a joyful, shimmying free-for-all of exuberant self-assurance, squirling, glammed-up synth and some improbably funky bass. While the rest of the record, as a whole, never quite conquers this lofty benchmark, it does substantiate the immediate impression of a remarkable young trio who can craft off-kilter pop songs with almost preternatural confidence and panache.

Opener "Another Universe" is something of a simulacrum of the overall record's qualities, kicking off with a glam '80s stomp which fades into Bowie-esque vocal suavity over meandering keys before a sweeping, effortlessly infectious chorus fights for space with juddering keyboard breakdowns. Though we never again get such eclecticism in a single song, True Romance proves to be similarly variform in a more sprawling sense. "The Seed", a ballad of emaciated love set to a throbbing undercurrent, follows straight after the jumpy "Magic Touch" and its three-part doo-wop harmonies. "Shakes" is a boozy, woozy four minutes that seems to swagger all the more for its sitting right beside the syrupy-sweet chorus of "Queen of the 21st Century".

In truth, True Romance is more intriguing than any talk of peppy pop songs would suggest. There is vim and vigor aplenty in the likes of "Magic Touch" and "Arrow of Eros", but you'd be required to turn a deaf ear to Gwylin Gold's ever-wistful melancholy if you wanted this to aptly soundtrack even a sunny day, let alone the rehabilitation of your love life. There are dark clouds continually lurking beneath a ostensibly sunny veneer of idealistic romanticism. This contrast between wounded words and summery sounds is starkest on the bubbly "Queen of the 21st Century", when Gold retreats from behind a perky Kevin Rowlands persona to bewail, "everybody knows that boys don't cry / but I need razorblade to cut away these tears". Gold's wounded heart is always posted on his sleeve. It's the sparse closer "Fade to Black", a lovely, haunted relationship epitaph, that sees him reach an emotional nadir. The only track on True Romance where Golden Silvers are truly undressed of their electro-pop dreamcoat, it's carried almost entirely by a gorgeous rawness in Gold's exposed voice that suggests his candor could be as valuable as his band's eccentricities in the future. By contrast, and in such vibrant surroundings, "Here Comes the King", which neither moves nor grooves, seems to plod. But it's the closest the album comes to a misstep.

Golden Silvers, then: jaunty, lovestruck '80s pop revivalists based around fizzy-pop synths, funky basslines and doo-wop vocals, with a singer who recalls at times both Ian Dury and Elvis Costello. It is hard to know if the three of them don't realize how inherently uncool they are or just don't care. Given that 15 seconds into "True Romance" Gold launches head-on into what basically amounts to the whitest rap this side of Vanilla Ice, however, the safe money's on the latter. This blatant disregard for fashion makes Golden Silvers intriguing, perhaps likable. But it's the timelessly infectious, mature and deceptively honest craftsmanship that makes them compelling.


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