By David Colburn
What is it about the 1980s? Why do so many contemporary acts find some degree of comfort in the “80s sound”? Is it a psychological phenomenon? A simple case of reminiscence? Does the sparkling synthesizer pad and hollow plastic beat bring back warm memories?
Cherish the Light Years is yet another album shamelessly infused in the catchy neon glow of 1980s pop. Before the music even begins, one can imagine the array of sounds; the anthem-like production quality, the clean texture of the guitar, and the vocals which manage to exercise restraint and expression without moving an octave. “The Great Pan is Dead” explodes into synth-ridden being, “Pacing Around the Church” continues onward in the tight rhythmic energy, “Confetti” thrives in its charming retro casing. It is all very nice and very adequate, indeed.
Yet, as one may imagine from the band’s moniker, there is an underlying air of darkness to it all. The early tracks feature brief slips into modes of disorientation, but the album’s dissonant potential is truly professed within “Icons of Summer.” A disturbing synthesizer hook and chilling command of a title mantra provides one of the most intriguing aspects of the album. “Burning Sage” works off of a similar cold and twisted strength, as sunny as the other tracks can be, the listener is drawn in by the less innocent, almost industrial persuasion.
Will the 1980,or its respective sonic influence, ever fade away? Not if Cold Cave and an overwhelming array of other contemporary groups have any say in the matter. Whatever the reason for the retro appreciation, the listener cannot avoid the simple fact that the album ultimately works. Although it is not always fascinating, it never lulls into some static sea of aural blandness. In fact, the darker moments move in the opposite direction; the listener is left wanting more. That catchy neon glow is nice, but Cherish the Light Years proves that synth-fledged noisiness, in all of its dystopian majesty, is actually next to perfection.