Release Date: Oct 16, 2015
Record label: Marathon Artists
Proudly based in north London, twenty-somethings Real Lies get their kicks as much from taking a stand against creeping urban gentrification as they do partying through from Friday until Monday. Frontman Kev Kharas, singer/producer Tom Watson and loops/samples man Pat King plug into the urban ennui and drifting modern malaise The Streets did on 2002 debut ‘Original Pirate Material’. ‘Real Life’ is the late night sound of the fringes of the city as filtered through baggy, happy house and rave.
Deeper, the fourth song on Real Life by new Marathon Artists signings Real Lies, sounds like a daydream. You can hear it in its sun-kissed keyboards and beats and in the wistful way that Kev Kharas recalls memories, almost as they’re flashing back in his head. The whole record feels like one extended flashback at times. It’s something that the north London trio have been attempting to finesse for a while now; on the way they’ve been championed by DJs such as Annie Mac and have been featured on James Blake‘s Radio 1 residency shows.
Late nights, empty streets, dog-eared consumerism – this is the world of Real Lies. The London trio prowl around the unfashionable edges of metropolitan existence in a manner so casual it comes across as studious. “The men who drink in A-road pubs / And rave flyers / All lost in the same sea,” runs a line in North Circular. They have created a 21st-century soundtrack by voraciously repackaging 1990s pop: from Electronic to the Beloved and even William Orbit’s Bassomatic, Real Life is a compendium of 90s references, an avowed musical homage.
Real Lies are too young to remember the late 80s, but the north London trio’s frisky debut album is steeped in the spirit of the Balearic years when indie kids discovered ecstasy and acid house. That combination has produced some dreadful bands, but Real Lies add other elements to the mix, among them Mike Skinner-esque spoken-word delivery and the pop sheen of a less self-satisfied Pet Shop Boys. The standout, North Circular (“Bag on my shoulder and a pocket full of rage/How many late nights does it take you to change?”), practically is a Skinner track, its lush synth washes and attention to detail echoing the Streets star’s Weak Become Heroes.
With their early declarations that all London music was “a disgrace” and they were its saviours, Real Lies’ intentions were always clear. Bolshy and bratty, theirs was a Gallagher-esque snot delivered with a Factory Records bounce – far from original, but drenched in a confidence that they knew would grab attention. Strip back the showboating though, and their debut full-length ‘Real Life’ illustrates a harsh truth – a spiritual successor to Viva Brother’s manufactured pomp, Real Lies’ knife-twisting soundbites are little more than a cover-up for a musical direction that’s lacking in any discernable identity.