Under Review: Lightspeed Champion – Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You

On his solo debut, Falling Off The Lavender Bridge, Dev “Lightspeed Champion” Hynes presented a collection of oddly personal songs in a kind of baroque country style.  This style could have been chosen for one of two reasons: to stand out starkly against the jagged punk sounds of his previous band, the Test Icicles, or (more likely) because country-inspired pop is producer Mike Mogis’ forte.  For Dev’s new album under the Lightspeed Champion name, Mogis and the country leanings are out; ‘Merriweather Post producer’ Ben Allen and more eclectic influences are in.  Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You begins with “Dead Head Blues,” which is less an actual blues about being a Grateful Dead devotee and more a dirge about having an actual dead head.  Next is “Marlene,” which bounces with an “Our House” backbeat before alternating between a super-processed guitar solo and slowed down orchestral interludes.  The jumping between classical and pop music is a recurring theme on Life Is Sweet, which gives the album a little more variety than Dev’s debut.  Featuring more electric instruments and keyboards than Lavender Bridge, Life Is Sweet presents some very strong dynamics in just about every song.  “Faculty Of Fears” goes from a very big arrangement to a hushed chamber piece and back again, and “Madame Van Damme” is a dark take on a ‘60s teen ballad.  What Life Is Sweet boasts in musicality, it somewhat lacks in memorable lyrics.  Few songs pop as immediately as “Galaxy Of The Lost” or “Midnight Surprise,” though part of that could be an effect of Dev’s increasingly verbose writing.  Another thing that remains from Lavender Bridge is Dev’s frequent use of curse words which, when placed against such mature music, really distracts from the otherwise carefully constructed wordplay.  Life Is Sweet is certainly an ambitious step for Dev, and it mostly works.  If there’s a main problem with the album it’s that it contains a few too many ideas.  With an overabundance of short “Intermissions,” Life Is Sweet too often holds itself up.  In the end, though, any new material from Lightspeed Champion is always welcome around these parts because, despite a few missteps here and there, Dev can always be counted on for making creative and clever pop music.

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~ by E. on February 15, 2010.

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