The Static Age – In the City of Wandering Lights
It’s been about a year since I last had a listen to the swirling new wave-ish sounds of Vermont’s The Static Age – I reviewed their EP i/o here – and at the time I wasn’t wholly convinced. Although the band had a knack for lush, dreamy pop melodies I found that for the most part it was “too 80s and earnest for my tastes”. In retrospect it’s kind of funny hearing myself describe something as “too earnest” – my favourite record is probably Against Me!’s Crime As Forgiven By, and if that’s not earnest I don’t know what is – but between that and the band reminding me of Chris Rea I wasn’t won over.
A year older and a year wiser; a year more mature and a year more proficient. From the outset it’s clear that The Static Age have taken some strides forwards. They’ve retained their fundamentally New Romantic/early goth sound, and their songwriting hasn’t shifted its approach particularly; the whole package just seems to work a lot better. There are even some standout lyrical moments; atop the luscious layered rhythms of ‘One City’ comes the line “the city reminds me of anodyne for losing streaks”.
In the City of Wandering Lights opens with one of its more accessible, catchy tracks: the immediate and punchy ‘Wires’. It’s followed by the moreish ‘Come Swimming’, which has plenty of appealing guitar moments, from the charming riff deployed at its beginning to the shimmering waves of delayed sound triggered as a second guitar chugs steadily away.
There are moments which feel weaker, to me, where the band slips back into more slavish reproduction of their 80s synth-pop influences: ‘Patience’ simply sounds corny to me with its Culture Club-esque rhythm, and although the titular ‘Wandering Lights’ doses itself with some admirable gentle irony (“what a wonderful world”), it’s slow and ponderous structure fails to land any blows.
These moments of weakness are the exception and not the rule, however. Although In the City of Wandering Lights still falls short of being something I’ll keep in regular rotation, it’s a significantly stronger record from an increasingly self-assured band, featuring plenty of slick, soothing and shimmering songs, and this time I’m keen to see what the band produces next.