If you like a blast from the past, then you’ll love The Vanities’ new album ‘2001’. As if they made the album and then used a time machine to release it in the future, ‘2001’ encapsulates the sound of the 80s and 90s electro-pop rock we know and love.
However, could this immense throwback also be the album’s downfall?
The Cardiff duo kick off the album with the aptly named ‘Dropping a Bomb’. From here on out you’ll have to get used to the reverberated vocals, fuzzy guitars, and synthed-up melodies, because they become a recurring feature across the rest of the album.
As you move through songs, The Vanities’ fondness for catchy saxophone licks becomes clear. Along with the feel-good backing vocals, it makes for four minutes of funky pop in ‘Love is the News’.
‘The Ballad of Orla Joan’ swiftly moves on from this as things take a slower turn. This song of romance, with cliché lyrics about a ‘sweet angel’, has a classic 80s rock feel with a subtle but impressive amount of guitar shredding towards the end. It’s a sign of the duo showing off the musical talent they possess. Having said that, it’s not all about talent and technique, as creative decisions are vital.
Moving into the songs ‘Addicted’ and ‘Stars’ we get to see some of these creative decisions. What I mean by this is the choice we’ve seen so many times before, to use old audio recordings to add a layer of eeriness to the whole song.
We see this technique continually used going into ‘Hollywood Hills’, which has been named as an intermission to the album. But I’m not sure that with a running time of nearly 5 minutes, and an overly song-like sense to it, you can justifiably call it an intermission. It feels like an effort to come across as an astute creative choice, but in the end only adds confusion.
‘Animal’ sees static meet synth once again, and at this point the background audio starts to feel overused. You then start to worry that the album is becoming reliant on it to add an extra layer of interest. Fortunately, things finally depart from this routine in ‘This Ain’t Love’, bringing a sophisticated feel topped with snappy sax and a captivating bassline.
Getting into the business end of things The Vanities go from strength to strength. The easily likeable early 2000s ballad-style track ‘London’ leads straight into the title track ‘2001’. Despite the chaos of it all, the funkiness that lies at its core just makes you want to move, and serves solidly as the track to name the album.
This takes you into the dramatic pinnacle of the album in ‘Red Leaves’. 10 minutes of disarray and commotion, with the last 4 minutes sounding like a demo recorded in a cubicle. This final song is certainly a bold statement, and whether you admire it or think it’s simply an attempt to be overly artsy is a choice you will have to make for yourself.
What you have to ask about ‘2001’ as an album is whether it’s stuck too much in the past?
You certainly set yourself a challenge in producing something fresh and new when your living in a sound of the past. This choice begins to make sense when you learn this album comes from a reunion of the band in 2016, following a hiatus that lasted from 2006. It seems they decided to pick up exactly where they left off. You do wish that they tried to do something more fresh and exciting though.
Nevertheless, you might just want a throwback to the past. You can listen to ‘2001’ on 26th November to decide for yourself, released exclusively through Bandcamp on CD and digital download.