Release Date: Feb 25, 2013
Record label: Transgressive Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
That Theme Park’s long-awaited debut is produced by the man behind Foals and The Maccabees – with a little help from Friendly Fires’ frontman Ed Macfarlane – tells you much of what you need to know. It would have been bang “on trend” four or five years ago, soundtracking episodes of Skins and the Topshop instore radio. That this summery breeze of synth-pop is released during winter 2013 is puzzling, but also makes it all the more welcome.
This record seems to have been a long time coming for Theme Park. Since mid-2011, they’ve been releasing singles here and there and certainly haven’t been shy of the live circuit, but they didn’t seem in any rush to put together an album to tour behind, apparently waiting until they felt ready to release a full-length. It’s an admirable approach: present-day pressure to remain as prominent as possible so often seems to force bands into putting out hastily-compiled efforts that frequently turn out to be horribly half-baked – and the obvious question on Theme Park’s first spin is whether or not the band’s patience has proven a virtue.
A full-length album by Theme Park? Even now, with this self-titled debut from the London band actually upon us, it still seems like an odd idea. Over the better part of two years, this soul- and funk-tinged pop group have mastered the art of very slowly trickling out their music to accrue the maximum level of buzz. Way back in 2011 there was “Milk”, which made them overnight blog darlings; next “Wax”, title track of a subsequent US EP; and more recently another series of singles has gradually emerged to oh-so-slowly tease the release of an LP which might well have been released last year, were it not for Theme Park’s calculated patience.
On first impression, Theme Park seem like a pretty carefree bunch of guys. The London trio’s self-titled debut LP bounces around to the sound of elastic bass lines and tapped out guitars that flutter and flicker with kid-like excitement. Add a dollop of sugarcane production into the mix and what comes out is an innately summery affair, best suited to moments of sun-wallowing pleasure.
South London trio Marcus, Miles and Oscar have made an album of upbeat indie-dance that would have been perfect for an opening act on an NME Tour in 2009, with Late of the Pier propping up the middle and Friendly Fires headlining. It's entirely inoffensive and impeccably polite, to the point of collapsing in on its own platitudes. "We got the love, we got the night," they croon on the moderately jolly Wax, which makes a night on the razz sound as vibrant as a country stroll in the rain.
We may have missed the youths rioting on London’s streets, calling for more tropicália-tinged indie-funk. Who knows? We have been taking a lot of Vicodin. But somehow, three years after bands like Washed Out and Lemonade defined the sound of ironic Hawaiian shirt-wearing for a generation, here are London quartet Theme Park trying to convince us that this sort of thing isn’t a terrible idea.‘Big Dream’ sets the template early on.
Londoners’ debut is well crafted but fails to set pulses racing. Mike Haydock 2013 Theme Park don’t have a drummer, and boy does it show. This debut by twins Marcus and Miles Haughton, and school buddy Oscar Manthorpe, is all shimmering guitars and synths and poppy choruses. It sits in the same dance-meets-indie camp as Friendly Fires and Foals, and shares influences including Orange Juice and Talking Heads.
Theme Park are a fiercely exciting quartet from London who take great pleasure in creating lush intelligent music. Opener ‘Big Dream’ throws you headlong into their world with its languid melodies, deep synth stabs and finger clicks. The imagery of burnt skies and highways stretching out paints a vivid picture, a feature which characterises the entirety of this debut release.Previous singles ‘Jamaica’ and ‘Two Hours’ couldn’t be closer to pop perfection if they were matured in Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s musical wine cellar.