My mother once told me that the secret to life is knowing when to laugh. Now is not the time.
It is too early to make jokes, so don’t think that this is going to be your average light-hearted Lifelounge review.
We’re sure that you already have heard the story a dozen times by now, so we’ll only skim the milky surface of the sad story. Following Ou Est Le Swimming Pool's impromptu crowd-surfing encore at Belgium’s Pukklepop Festival last month (reports differ on which band member was the surfer), a young girl was seriously injured. Although YouTube footage of the incident has since been pulled, witness reports claim that lead singer Charles Haddon was visibly distraught side of stage.
Soon after, Haddon’s body was found at the bottom of a telecommunications pole in the backstage carpark.
He was 22.
The album, which was already mixed, recorded and ready to be released, was originally titled Jesus Died For Our Synths
. Fellow band members Joe Hutchinson and Caan Capan have decided to posthumously release the debut in Haddon's honour. It has been renamed The Golden Year
, likely referring to the near-exact time that Ou Est Le Swimming Pool experienced the limelight.
The poignancy of the opening track ‘You Started’ sets the tone for the album. Haddon opens the rolling chorus with “You have started / the beginning of my life”. A demure piano line loops throughout the track, picking up a reverberant cello hum along the way. Instead of a minute’s silence, we observe three and a half minutes of beauty before launching into their now known synth-pop stye.
The band’s best known songs, ‘I Just Dance The Way I Feel’ and ‘Jackson’s Last Dance’ were aptly chosen as two of the three previous singles – they are clearly the better written tracks in the mix. By the time you’ve hit the midway point at ‘Better’, everything is starting to sound a bit repetitive. The song structures are nearly identical (although there is a strange Streets-esque talk/rap breakdown in the bridge of their second single, ‘These New Knights’) and the drum sampler begins to feel like a droning march.
There are tracks that break the mold though. The quasi-calypso intro of ‘Get Along’ was a surprise, although it quickly descended into something that was strangely reminiscent of a synthesised James Blunt.
‘Outside’ stands out from the rest of album because of its relative
simplicity. It is stripped back to barely anything more than a drum
machine and layered voices, and is a breather in a crowded club
of welcomed chaos. The unconventional lyrical timing of its lyrics
breaks up the album, before launching you headfirst into another dark
The influence of the nu-'80s movement is like a fluorescent disco light throughout The Golden Years
. Second track ‘The Key’ sits better than ‘Answers’. The latter has a fair amount of autotuning put to it, which when combined with an electro backing makes it sound more Jason Derulo than Camden electro.
The cellos come back for the final song, the post-apocalyptic ‘Next To Nothing’. It may bookend the album, but it’s perhaps a little too melodramatic in context, sounding like a melancholy Passion Pit. Combine that with the track before it, the jarringly jangly, yet astutely name ‘The Curtain Falls’, and you feel a bit like you’re being fed spoons of irony. A mildly more uplifting and hopeful track such as ‘Our Lives’ would have been a nicer send off.
There is nothing revelatory in The Golden Year
. However, it really does create a portrait of the world that Haddon would have inhabited in his mind. It makes you feel alive, but empty.
You will find yourself unconsciously tapping to the driving beats, moved by some internal metronome. However, you don’t so much actively consume it than let it consume you. It’s like drowning peacefully in a haze of synthesisers.
Of course there are going to be the skeptics: the ones that say that Universal Music is cashing in on a tragedy, and the ones that say we will only listen to the album because of Haddon’s death. But the album may now be imbued with the ghost of Haddon, but that doesn’t change the musicality – it only changes our perception.
Ou Est Le Swimming Pool were meant to be playing Parklife
, which begins next weekend. For those attending, dance the way you feel in Chris Haddon’s remembrance.
We’re giving away five copies of The Golden Year
. To win, send your full name, user name, postal address and a short description of your dream golden year to email@example.com
The Golden Year
will be released October 1st in Australia through Universal Records/Ministry of Sound.
More at myspace.com/ouestleswimmingpool