Londoners’ cocktail-hour guitar-pop debut lacks fizz
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. A white-suited, scratchy guitar riff Miami-Beaches its way in and orders a piña colada. A big elasticated bassline funks down next to it. A lazy disco kick-drum arrives. There’s some unlikely vocal guff from Miles Haughton about “giving it up”. Then, at 2:30, some other guy does a needless falsetto version of the main vocal line. Repeat. Fade.
Talking Heads have been mentioned a lot in chats about Theme Park; a convenient reference point for people who didn’t hang around the north London toilet circuit in the late noughties. Theme Park were at school with Fryars, Bombay Bicycle Club and Cajun Dance Party, a stone’s throw from where the venue Nambucca was having its own revolution with bands like The Holloways, and that’s the culture on which they seem to have been weaned: sunny, scrappy, slightly naive MySpace-era guitar pop that speaks flatly of chillaxation.
Occasionally, their claim to be putting the spirit of film director Terrence Malick into their art rings true: the front-footed ‘Two Hours’ leans on that same widescreen sense of an eternal moment, like an ‘All My Friends’ for the 2010s. But mostly, what their reliance on groove rather than tune adds up to is dirge. Despite taking way more time to get going than their big-in-2007 school chums, it seems like their album will only be a footnote to 2013.