I wrote this piece last week for The Student. Thought I’d pop it up.
For most people, favourite records are tied to memories: the first CD you bought, the song you listened to at the high-school prom or the album your parents would always play in the car on long drives to distant relatives’ houses.
Live at Dead Lake is a record that looks back at a misspent teenage era and rejects its honey-soaked recollections as sugar-coated nostalgia.
Hot Club de Paris’ revolving, fizzing, geometric guitar riffs – the core of their glucose-infused indie rock – spin faster and faster like some possessed musical whirligig, only just staying within the realms of control. The melodies on Dead Lake are a zoetrope of twangs and tweaks, culminating in a constant torrent of delicious math rock.
Listening for the first time to this album – over a long summer holiday – it felt as if the band had bottled the sun, shook it up and poured it into my ears.
Large portions of the album segue seamlessly into one another and are better expressed as movements than tracks. The initial three songs are borne from a sleepy warm introduction into wide-eyed chirpy, joyful guitar indie, whilst the middle section cools to an almost-stop before the final autumnal bow.
And through the hurl and burl of those gorgeous melodies, rough-hewn barbershop harmonies and witty lyricisms leap. Hot Club don’t mince their words but they don’t revel in laddish delight: there is nary a misplaced line or phrase on Dead Lake. Whilst singing of forgotten girls and lost nights, there’s a lighter touch to the lovelorn realism on For Parties Past and Present, the lyrics “when I think of her/ I see that dress with the summer sewn/ into its cotton checks” sound fond rather than bitter. Neither does it succumb to epic pop trope; the girl who mesmerises our hero leaves him to the wolves midway through the album. The listener is left to pick up the pieces amongst colliding melodies and circling catechisms.
Live at Dead Lake, with its myriad time signatures, skew-whiff guitar tunes and asymmetric polygon take on indie rock, redefined the way I listened to music – and it hasn’t lost an iota of its potency today.