Release Date: Jun 21, 2011
Record label: Astralwerks
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
It's almost inevitable that the frontman of a rock band will eventually want to strike out on his own, often to showcase material that's more tender and introspective than an amp-cranking, four-piece line-up allows. However, it's rare that these solo sojourns wind up eclipsing the work of the mothership act, and even rarer when they reveal the singer-dude's fondness for lipstick and eyeliner, facility with choreographed dance routines, and eagerness to call his sexuality into question. For those who aren't familiar with John O'Regan's workmanlike post-punk outfit the D'Urbervilles-- and, lamentably, few people outside the Toronto-Montreal indie-rock corridor are-- the magnitude of his transformation into lo-fi glitter god Diamond Rings can be quantified as such: imagine Britt Daniel decided one day that he really wanted to be Lady Gaga.
That glitzed-out figure with rainbow eyeliner you see on the cover of Special Affections isn’t some glossy disco-mag cutout or family-album relic; that’s John O’Regan as Diamond Rings, and as his attire suggests, he’s in the ancient business of avatar rock, creating a distant alter ego out of which his music flows. But Special Affections is at least crafted on a personal level; like many of O’Regan’s peers, it sounds like he made most of these songs sitting in his bedroom. The record plays like a low-rent version of Marc Bolan’s The Slider or David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, reworking grand, organic melodies with unassuming warmth—with maybe an added dash of disco.
Rather atypically for an act receiving the type of blog-buzz boost that Diamond Rings enjoyed leading up to this album's release, Special Affections presents John O'Regan (the singular man behind the confusingly plural moniker) as -- above all -- a singer and songwriter in the great pop/rock tradition of literary romantics. Granted, that probably wasn't the quality which first caught the attention of internet tastemakers -- more likely it was his rainbow eye-makeup, retro-‘80s synth pop stylings, goofily glammed-out low-budget video clips, and/or his knack for naggingly catchy hooks. Certainly, the fact that virtually every one of these songs boasts a melodic smart missile of a chorus contributes greatly to the album's appeal.