Words: Alexandra Dominica | Photo: Ryan Cleave
It’s not often that a band has the ability to transport you to a deeply nostalgic island and artistically sweep you off your feet, but with their latest EP ‘Better Men’, Speedboat venture from dialogue to pure romance. This time, we’re heading away from the light-hearted towards more socially introspective and experimental waters.
With sounds that recall the likes of Visage, OMD, Bronski Beat and Ariel Pink – ‘Better Men’ feels like a softer and gentler cruise through memory lake. As opposed to the storytelling, drama and intensity of previous releases, ‘Better Men’ is exactly as it sounds, markedly mature, well thought out and refined like a beautifully artisanal meal. The compositions are decidedly richer and full bodied with sonorance, infused together with melodious vocals and aromatic chord progressions.
‘Better Man’ is our introduction to the experience and takes inspiration from Kanye West, A$AP Rocky and an amalgam of commercial pop and contemporary sounds. This with some lovely vocal distortion and synthy expansive ripples makes for an interesting diversion from what we’re used to from the pair. It’s playful, it’s head-turning, it delivers the message of self improvement.
If ‘Better Man’ was the prelude, ‘Sadie Grey’ is the definitive overture. The Brothers Griffiths press down the pedals into new wave hyperdrive, an acceleration that propels you into a musical cove inhabited by all your 80s idols hosting the likes of The Cure, Japan and their ilk. Hinting at an abstractive retelling of a post-brexit love affair in France, the frustration is palpable, the witty cynicism in the lyrics translating as less of an exhaustion at political stringence but more of an exuberant friskiness.
‘Theodora’ is a grooved-out waltz that feels like seduction in a bottle. The bass is silky smooth and feels like a cheeky grab on your thigh on a night out, leading to an auditory synth-pop strip-tease. The synthesisers are stunningly imbued with peppery hooks and simmering with moonlight melodies – it’s a sound that you’d expect to hear on the beach in Miami circa 81’.
‘D Sports’ is a striking change of pace that makes for an intriguing night ride on the pier. The mood is much darker, with existential lyrical jabs like “Sons and daughters logging on”, “Satan is trending” and “Time has come, the time is now”. It feels like it really is “all about Saturday night” and we’re in for a seriously sexy plot twist. Closing your eyes it really feels as if you’re dancing in an 80s coming of age drama, where angels and demons gaze at each other longingly on the sabbath of devilish debauchery.
Then we have the penultimate track, the turbo charged ‘Russki Radio’ with a beat so hot it could warm up the Cold War. The vibe is fervidly analogue, a fast and carefree radio transmission chime that recalls The Cars and The Human League spliced with all the gorgeous metallic sounds and broadcast radio jingles characteristic of the era. When asked about its influences, Will says “Have you ever seen the film American Graffiti? It’s all about American teens in the 60s.” In a flipside spin on that, Will says: “It’s like the same narrative, except set in Russia. So it’s all about what Russian teens might have been up to in the 60s.” Taking influence from the Beatles’ ‘Back in the USSR’, it’s safe to say this is a damn good sequel. Well done, Paul would be proud.
The EP concludes with ‘Your Life And Mine’, a cosy ballad that is a love letter to life which safely wraps its arms around you. That’s what this EP feels like, returning to your favourite restaurant and watching your partner fill up your glass of wine without having to ask. The perfect end to a perfect listening experience.