Electro duo goes back to the future

Empire of the sun

Another world: Empire Of the Sun’s second album continues the band’s future-retro odyssey. Source: Supplied

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: The first Empire Of the Sun album had two game-changing singles – Walking On a Marvel and We Are the People.

Despite the awards (ARIA’s Album Of the Year in 2009) and seven-figure sales, it was half a splendid album.

The fluoro elephant in the technicolour room is that this follow-up is a better album overall – it just doesn’t have that one incredible release to seize the ears of the world again.

At least Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore patched up whatever success unravelled; they’d separately been recruited by Beyonce and Usher (Steele) and Elton John and Mika (Littlemore) to inject some Empire fairy dust.

Marvel’s marvel team of co-writers/producers Peter Mayes and Donnie (aka Jonathan) Sloan are also back to try and make lightning strike again. Maybe that’s the problem: the stakes are too high. Adventurous second albums are career death these days. First release Alive is undeniably catchy and familiar, it just lacks something.

DNA follows the formula to the letter, with bursts of sun-kissed synths; Concert Pitch sounds like The Cars with a big radio-friendly chorus; the poptastic title track recalls Littlemore’s future-retro work with Elton.

This album notably unclenches in the second half when they stop worrying about a hit to slip next to David Guetta on US radio to keep the Empire juggernaut vacant. Keep a Watch is the real Steele, unplugged from planet pop. Digi-ballad Awakening sees Steele hit cloud-high clarification as muted funk bass squelches below him. The wispy I’ll Be Around is Fleetwood Mac meets Air. Like most things here, it’s super-’80s. Celebrate storms in a subtle way, harking back to the French household craze, while Ancient Flavours could slip on to the latest Daft Punk album.

That’s also an odd, understated album in parts – but it’s got a killer release. Have Empire Of the Sun built up enough good will to be seen as an album band, not a release act? Let’s hope so.

Album of the week: Empire Of the Sun – Ice On the Dune (EMI)

Rating: 3.5/5

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