Release Date: Jul 7, 2014
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Currently based in London, Eugene McGuinness and his band were formerly billed as Eugene + The Lizards, but Chroma marks a return to his own name. His previous albums held in high regard the post-punk revival that was championed by peers Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand but with a dive bar danceability that his colleagues ever so slightly lacked. While those two bands have gone on to expand or continue their old styles to mixed success, McGuinness has done well to cut back on Chroma by stripping away the studio fixes and leaving a solid, if clichéd, garage pop record.
The fourth long-player from the mercurial English singer/songwriter and frontman for Eugene + the Lizards, Chroma kicks off with the nervy "Godiva," a thick, road-ready pop/rocker built on a retooled, minor-key riff on the Beatles' "Day Tripper" lead that sets the pace and tone for the wily and largely likable ten tracks that follow. McGuinness is an astute student of popcraft, and his confections almost always take more than a cursory spin to reveal their tasty centers. Chroma may be fortified by an extremely well-built hard candy shell, but there is some enjoyable sport to be made out of exploring its fissures.
Despite him first appearing on rock’s radar in 2007, even a music fan with Rain Man’s memory skills would struggle to recall a hilarious interview quip from Eugene McGuinness. Few at gunpoint would be able to pick him out from the queue outside any given indie club. And could you, for a cool million, honestly whistle one of his tunes from start to finish?No, he has always cut a peripheral, if well-respected, figure on the fringes of Britain’s classically minded guitar scene, largely as touring guitarist for Miles Kane.
There’s a boyishness to Eugene McGuinness that is part of his charm. Even on his fourth solo full length, Chroma, there is an endearing youthfulness in his lyrics and delivery, whether he’s quoting movies or singing about a one night stand. With less of the high production gloss than 2012’s The Invitation to the Voyage, Chroma has has a different kind of density and more of an indie vibe.
There has been a bit of a radio silence from Eugene McGuinness of late, but after a writing hiatus it seems the singer-songwriter has been off stripping back the layers - Chroma, his fourth studio album, tries significantly to pare down the pop. Whereas 2012’s The Invitation to the Voyage felt slightly formulaic, the Londoner has been a lot less obvious about polishing the production on these 11 new tracks, resulting in a much looser sound. It may all be part of a cunning ruse to push McGuinness through a more psychedelic lens, but Chroma does feel hazier with its strung out choruses and retro tones.
As Miles Kane and Alex Turner's Last Shadow Puppets demonstrated, there's still plenty of mileage in gently psychedelic pop. This is Eugene McGuinness's fourth album, and he knows his way around a tune, combining spiky guitars and lysergic choruses with nods to postpunk and 60s British pop. His wordplay straddles cocksure confidence and cheeky self-effacement.
Eugene McGuinness walks a fine line, one between familiarity and originality. His music is loaded with winking nods to numerous genres, namely ’80s pop, early British R&B, and new wave. But he’s clearly finding his own way and doing his own thing, which makes his reliance on the sounds of yesterday not just forgivable but enticing. After all, everyone has their influences.