Just over a year ago, Ed Seed was playing the main stages of festivals all over the globe. It was with Dua Lipa, for whom he was a key band member, playing guitar and keys. It was an incredible and fulfilling time, he says, but perhaps not sustainable, and even less so when he become a father. So Ed moved back home settled down to finish off ‘Other People’s Lives’, a funky, dizzying throwback to when pop didn’t take itself so seriously. Dua’s loss is our gain.
In truth, there was actually a bit of overlap between his time as a handy touring band member (he also performed with La Roux at one point) and Stats, his art-pop project, which has been several years in the making. In 2014, the six-piece band planted their flag with ‘Where Is The Money’, a blog-baiting absurdist thrill-ride of an EP, but it took a backseat while Ed was on the road. They endeavoured to find time to make it work and last year, the band headed into the studio to smash through the recording in a frenzied two day session. The band would “pick a tempo” and hit record, he’s said, playing “anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes” before moving onto the next unstructured jam. Like a pop-loving Dr. Frankenstein, Ed spent the last year stitching these jams into fully-fledged songs. Thankfully, this is not a horror show.
In fact, ‘Other People’s Lives’ is remarkably pieced together, turning what could have been a noodling mess into a crisp collection of retro-pop magic. There’s ‘Raft’, which apes Lipps Inc’s iconic ‘Funky Town’ opening riff, but turns it into a dancefloor hit all on its own, while the title track has a similar psychedelic effect achieved by ’90s ravers such as Chemical Brothers and Groove Armada. ‘Lose It’, the album’s centre piece, boasts a towering chorus and wry lyricism of the everyday mundane that’d make David Byrne smirk: “I left that back door open for four straight days and nights / Nothing was taken / You can’t rely on anyone any more.”
It’s that absurdist nature which makes ‘Other People’s Lives’ such an arresting listen. Ed drags you, willing or reluctant, into what he’s calling “the cosmic-domestic”, a dizzying dimension filled with everyday responsibilities (families, pets, dishwashers) and our greatest fears (people not liking you any more). ‘There Is A Story I Tell About My Life’ dabbles with post-modern thoughts of the self and our public presentation (“I used to tell so many stories of disasters and glories / Now I’m not sure what they mean”), and ‘I Am Animal’ simmers until melting like a clock stuck in Dali’s canvas. Your brain will short-circuit at least three times over this album’s 47-minute run time.
‘Other People’s Lives’ has achieved a wonderful thing. It is both calm and collected, but wildly unhinged at its core, which bubbles away with insecurities and mysteries. Stats’ record belongs to Ed Seed and his band, but in reality, he’s telling all our stories just as much as his own.