M83: Saturdays = Youth

Did your heart skip a beat when Pretty in Pink's Andie (Molly Ringwald) and Blane (Andrew McCarthy) kissed while OMD's “If You Leave” roared in the background? Did you long to be Tears For Fears' Curtis Smith tooling down the open road in that Austin-Healey 3000 sports car in “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”? Did posters of The Cure and Cocteau Twins grace your bedroom walls in days long past? If you'll admit to any of the above (few would, at least publicly), then M83's ode to the ‘80s, Saturdays = Youth, is made for you: think songs that call to mind Kate Bush (not only do the soaring melodies and vocals in “Up!” ape Bush, there's even a “hounds of love” reference in the lyrics), Cocteau Twins, and Slowdive, and synth-drenched melodies, shoegaze guitars, breathy vocals, and primitive electronic drum programming, with all of it wrapped in a grandiose production style courtesy of producer Ken Thomas and co-producers Ewan Pearson and M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez (who apparently instructed Thomas to make the album sound like “an Eighties band with a lot of reverb”).

Listening to the material, one vividly remembers the tortuous angst one felt at fifteen when the thought of not being out with friends carried the weight of global catastrophe. During “Graveyard Girl,” that desperation literally comes to the fore in the Goth protagonist's overwrought plea: “Waiting for someone to love me / Waiting for someone to kiss me / I'm fifteen years old and I feel it's already too late to live.” Rich with atmosphere, Saturdays = Youth largely succeeds—the lush overture “You, Appearing,” featuring Morgan Kirby's ethereal voice and Gonzalez's serene counterpoint; the celestial piano ballad “Too Late”; and the disco-funk throwdown “Couleurs,” which blazes like Simple Minds in overdrive with Charlie Burchill's guitars cranked to 11—but some of it's hook-starved: “Highway of Endless Dreams,” for example, is sonically awesome but otherwise unremarkable. One presumes that the last track, “Midnight Souls Still Remain,” is intended as Gonzalez's requiem for his own paradise lost, but at eleven minutes it's about three times longer than necessary. Even so, any album with a song as melodically potent as “Kim & Jessie,” a wistful pop about two teenage girls' drug experience, earns its recommendation.

June 2008