A Night Out at a So-So Party
London band Cymbals, purveyors of “downhome disco,” have let loose their sophomore album, The Age of Fracture. A mix of dance electronic, synth pop and ’80s sincerity, Fracture manages to incite a celebration however grounded in its own self-seriousness. Individual tracks waver between sweet success and drawn-out tediousness.
Fracture comes on invitingly, “Winter ‘98” dropping the listener in what sounds like a low-key gathering full of crowd chatter. A steady midtempo beat casually moves things along as lyrics are recited in French. The feel is similar to an art-school party or the soundtrack to one such film. From there, things take a sharp turn towards ’80s synth pop, with “The Natural World” and “You Are.” The former particularly sounds like an outtake from David Bowie’s The Labyrinth soundtrack. These songs are bouncy, open and sincere — sweet or even naive when compared to the heaviness of modern electronic music. There is no bass drop here.
Unfortunately, CYMBALS can take that sincerity to the point where you have to question if they’re being ironic. The goofy pops, blips and lyrics of “Empty Space” and Jack Cleverly’s grating vocals of “The 5%” are intentional, but are they meant seriously? This oddball interlude is short-lived, as the band uses the second half of the album to stretch their sound and elude song structure. A clean, edgy guitar riff slinks along over a catwalk disco beat on “Like an Animal,” recalling dance-era Blur (“Girls & Boys”). A bass line is put in the forefront and the tone becomes darker. At nine minutes, the track can go on a bit, but this is also the high-point of the album so its worth enjoying.
The album fades with the last couple of tracks. “This City” is an exercise in relaxed guitar noodling before “The End” brings us back to the art-school party and the conversation once again turns French. The album cleverly reminds us that, whether we’ve had a good night or not, the party’s over and “It’s time to turn on the light.”