Second album from Citizens! is surprisingly optimistic Euro-pop.
Due to an enthusiastic exclamation mark, British band Citizens! must be an editor’s worst nightmare, but as they're signed to Parisian fashion house/label Kitsuné, this type of statement in typography is probably not just tolerated but actively encouraged. So be it (and now, coming up for grammatologists, we encounter an issue as to where to put a possessive apostrophe). Citizens!’ second album European Soul is billed as a “collection of contagiously exalting tracks that break with the economic, political and social angst felt in today’s world.”
Furthermore, European Soul is alleged to display a “wonderfully British ability to dance through the somber moments in life with irresistibly catchy tunes and feel-good mantras.” Amidst a crumbling empire, the British do have much to lament, but a proclivity to invert the somber seems an unrealistic claim. Yes, Citizens! do manage this, but the average British citizen is much more likely to be outwardly drenched in his or her misery, and bereft of any exciting punctuation. We are generally not a cheerful bunch, and can readily appreciate stewing in our own industrial decline. Indeed, it seems prudent to question whether Citizens! are in fact British; they extol the virtues of European Girls (in “European Girl”) to a catchy and upbeat disco soundtrack (with an absence of Euro-scepticism or fear of immigration), and an anything-can-happen optimism (as opposed to a doom-will-certainly prevail pessimism) in “Waiting for Your Lover".
It's true (present company included) that the British could do with an immediate but gentle shove to embrace positivity; the love-on-the-rocks opening to “Lighten Up” suddenly bursts into an anthem recommending we look on the bright side. However on the whole, as the title of the album suggests, this is more of a European album. “My Kind of Girl” is a girl with international feel, and much of the album veers towards classy, layered Euro-pop. “Only Mine” has a border-less modern approach, adopting electro to make a classy torch song, and “Brick Wall” and “Have I Met You” are reminiscent of Australian band Temper Trap. “Trouble” is all ‘80s Wham! (another British pop group who inclined towards over-exclamation) while “Xmas In Japan” emphasises the foreign (not just from Japan, but also L.A.), and “Are You Ready?” is more shimmering Europop. All in all, this may be a band somewhat out of step with their country, but European Soul is all the richer for it, and a refreshing change to the norm. Being grumpy can only take us so far, after all.