Late of The Pier – Fantasy Black Channel review

Originally released 11th August 2008. Original review published September 25th 2009.

Allegories. Dusty and forlorn in the reviewer’s toolbox, we commonly choose to wield blunter instruments whilst laying it on the line. Right here though they’re an essential manoeuvre to capture the essence of the creative feat under scrutiny. And in a vulgar attempt to draw in the mainstream masses – neatly perhaps in a locale where we cannot cast a drizzled mushroom without striking a celebrity chef – food is the allegorical weapon of choice.

Imagine for a moment you are permitted unlimited access to Utopia’s deli-counter and invited to assemble a feast of delicious and guilty delights. Perhaps the most likely outcome might be a hurl inducing, disastrously inedible glob of flavours and textures. Far less often, others might create a banquet of riches that goes far beyond the promise of the chosen ingredients. Enter the sonic recipes of Late Of The Pier…

Plundering the larder of post punk as aggressively as MGMT’s debut set about the entrails of Ziggy Stardust; Fantasy Black Channel is both a voyeuristic, white knuckle journey for ageing retro-tourists and a blazing barrage of voguish party hits for the here and now. For those burdened by an ever present frame of reference, there are pastiche flashes of Numan (‘Space In The Woods”), Talking Heads (“Broken” & “The Enemy are the Future”), Devo (‘Whitesnake’), Human League (‘Heartbeat’) – and frankly, you will go and find your own – but they mercifully prove reverential enough influences to be ultimately irresistible rather than incongruous. For everyone else this is not the sound of young men taking themselves too seriously.

Without caring who measures them up against, entertainment and the spirit of synth adventure are brought to the fore, with a rare calibre of song craft and undeniable creative nous bringing up the rear. If nothing else, LOTP must be applauded for delivering a host of simple pleasures – the long ignored vocal talents of Sooty and Sweep moulded with the re-introduction of the broken tea-cup as a combined musical tour-de-force during ‘The Bears are Coming’, the innovative use of the word ‘cabbage’ to rescue the instrumental diversion of ‘VW’, reviving pineapple chunks as a metaphorical theme in contemporary art during the middle eight of ‘Heartbeat.

If all this smacks of plagiarist novelty record tom-foolery and you are tempted to run away screaming, then the stick is being grasped at the wrong end. This debut is far more substantial and accomplished than it is ridiculous – and after all, who can really argue with tongue in cheek surrealism that you can dance to?

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