Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Album review: CITIZENS! - Here We Are

Highlights: True Romance, Reptile, Caroline, (I’m In Love With Your) Girlfriend

If you’ve heard of this album, chances are it’s because this album is produced by Alex Kapranos. But before I get to Here We Are (which is delightful), a couple of words about Alex Kapranos. Now whatever you might think of Franz Ferdinand and their last album, you just have to admit that back in 2004-2005 Kapranos was writing some of Britain’s most distinctive indie pop songs. Where has it all gone, one has to wonder, and rightfully so: 2 great albums in 2 years, 1 okay album in 7. If nothing remarkable happens, Kapranos might end up one of the most frustrating talents of his generation. Another potentially classic songwriter now wasted and lost… (hopefully not)

Well, for all its gratuitous drama, that wasn’t a random rant. I only mention all that because Here We Are, the debut album by a London-based band Citizens!, manages to capture some of that irresistible excitement of Franz Ferdinand’s best songs. What is more, Here We Are gives us a great opportunity to hear Tonight that actually worked.

Citizens! play catchy, convincing electro-pop/rock music that borrows from 80’s synth-pop and, naturally, Franz Ferdinand. Speaking of the latter, the influence is particularly palpable on the funky, infectious “(I’m In Love With Your) Girlfriend” that is one of the album’s biggest highlights. While you just feel that Citizens! took great care not to record anything subpar for their debut, the best tunes are all concentrated at the very beginning: the first 3 tracks are delicious pieces of intelligent electro-pop, with “Caroline” (one of the year’s most irresistible choruses, obviously) worthy of any classic Sparks song of the 80’s (think better parts of In Outer Space).

The record never quite recaptures those heights again, and some of those second-side tracks are rather unexceptionable (if well-written and well-produced), but there’s great spirit and self-confidence there that you can’t deny. Citizens! know what they are doing, and they are doing it well. Dancey grooves, catchy beats? Derivative, I hear you say, but I don’t know: with songs this good, I just couldn’t care any less. Sounds a lot gutsier and, hell, better than Hot Chip. If that counts for anything.


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