Review Summary: Similar in sound to MGMT, the comparison between the 2 duos also holds to this debut album being an unapologetically hit and miss affair that contains 3 excellent standouts. Timing can be everything when it comes to music and it can often be a two-edged sword. For example; an artist “ahead of their time” might be viewed positively by critics, but negatively by record labels that would prefer albums to be sold now! Another instance of this phenomenon is when one artist breaks worldwide, just before another similar artist records an LP.
Second acts are rare in the lives of guitar bands. When a widely touted new act is found to have previous form, the announcement is generally greeted in industry circles like pleas for more gruel from a leprous Oliver Twist. Indie-pop Lazaruses are the exception, not the rule - members of Franz Ferdinand had paid their dues on the Glasgow toilet circuit for years before hitting on their foppish formula for success.
Luke Steele's previous band, the Sleepy Jackson, weren't noted for using one idea when three would do, so letting him loose on the gaudiest tropes of 80s pop is like giving an overeater the keys to the cake shop. The flamboyantly stupid sleeve (imagine the poster to Dune if the film had been directed by the doorman at New Romantic nightspot Blitz) serves notice that he and fellow Australian Nick Littlemore have scoffed themselves silly. At various points, Walking On a Dream resembles Prince, Mercury Rev, Angelo Badalamenti, Funkadelic and the Muppets, none of them at their best.
Empire of the Sun's debut offering of experimental electro-pop and dance-rock is very well-timed, hitting the market just as the buzz surrounding MGMT's Oracular Spectacular has started to recede. Like those similarly colorful Americans, Empire of the Sun's two members embrace the glam lifestyle in spirit and song, wearing festive costumes in concert and festooning their music with oddball flourishes, androgynous lyrics, and a general sense of theatricality that borders on schizophrenia. Walking on a Dream runs an interesting gamut, sampling equally from hip-hop ("Swordfish Hotkiss Night"), arty synth pop ("Standing on the Shore"), and all the stops in between.
Many regard the ‘80s as an awful decade in music, perhaps the beginning of the end of good pop music. Others, feeling the need to rebuke this widespread criticism, look to bands such as Joy Division, Talking Heads, and the Cure as sources of light in the otherwise dismal decade (if you can make a legitimate case for “The Final Countdown”, please, tell me). Empire of the Sun—comprised of the Sleepy Jackson’s Luke Steele and Pnau’s Nick Littlemore—seem to be in favor of popular ‘80s music, but don’t take much influence from the bands listed above.
Their talent is undoubtable and this album sounds like an instant classic. Sophie Bruce 2009 Electro duo Empire Of The Sun dress like Adam Ant and borrow their name from the film that launched the career of Christian Bale. But don't let their at best dubious choice of influences put you off. Their talent is undoubtable and this album sounds like an instant classic.
The future. It once seemed like such an exciting possibility when foretold by the Human League and their synth-wielding peers. It was going to be a place where men weren't afraid to look like women, women weren't afraid to look like men and the emergence of brilliant, machine-made pop music would shatter the hegemony of the guitar. How times have changed.
The debut collaboration between Aussies Luke Steele of the Sleepy Jackson and Pnau's Nick Littlemore laces with the same modern-glam pixie dust as MGMT's Oracular Spectacular and scores legitimate smashes in the disaffected disco of "Standing on the Shore" and beaming title track. Sadly, the intrigue and theatricality wane midway through "Delta Bay" and never return. .