When It’ll Be Better came out, A-Trak tweeted that the vocals sounded too close to Phil Collins for comfort. Then he added “not mad though.” It’s the perfect caveat for a band that charms straight from the middle of Phil Collins’ expanding bald spot. We were told by Ben Gibbard, as far back as the “Wicker Park” soundtrack, to just admit we like the Genesis ex; subsequent yacht-rock nostalgia by the smoother DJs has almost rid that affection of all irony. Nevertheless, hearing Francis & the Lights is no time-insensitive trip; they’re so 1983 adult-contemporary it’s easy to forget Billy Corgan named the singer. Francis Fairwell Starlight is aiming seriously high.
The title track sets out on a clickety-clack ride to hokeytown that doesn’t augur well. But after that bit of whingeing, things take a nifty turn with “In A Limousine,” a nimble waltz through tinkled piano and cheesy Casio stabs. “It doesn’t matter,” Starlight avers. “Save it for a rainy day.” What doesn’t matter is sort of unclear. Everything I guess.
“For Days,” bathed in incandescently pervy light, clutters a honky fingersnap chorus with choppy drums and stalker-y lyrics (“I’ve been watching you for days/ you should’ve been mine“). “Knees To The Floor” is filled with noodly guitar and other funky business but also sounds, in a temporary dash of rave nonsense, like New Young Pony Club’s “Get Lucky.” Starlight (Fairlight Starwell?) regularly bumps his croon to the top of his throat; he’s a fine singer under all that semi-camp. When it’s maximally full his voice embodies a husky cognac or something else expensive. Behind him the band basically lounges; the tempos are all moderate-to-brisk but everybody’s resting heart rate stays pretty static. The drumming is really excellent; it’s all rims, woodblocks and syrupy hi-hats.
These songs get in and get out so fast you almost need to call them back. Probably the best is the expertly timed Doobie Brothers rollick “Going Out” (“There’s something calling to me like a picture to a frame/ or like a love letter calling you away“). Starlight Fairwell or whatever says, “if you’ve ever seen a movie alone then you know what I’m sayin’” and it’s hard to tell if he’s making fun of you or not. For the record he seems like he’d be terrific doing snarky stand-up at the Sands. Don’t get mad at him though.
Genesis – Invisible Touch
Jamie Lidell – Multiply
Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement