In the case of Light Asylum’s debut album, the latter two factors seem to be at work. But don’t take this as the harsh criticism it appears to be. There is a willful lack of originality on the album in so much as at times it has such a faithful synth-pop sound that you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a 1980s reissue. And I’m sure this what the duo set out to achieve.
Throughout, the song construction is very good. There’s the stomping riff in ‘Heart of Dust’ that brims with attitude, the wonderful pairing of the monolithic miserabilist goth tracks ‘Angel Tongue’ and ‘Shallow Tears’, and the studied sneer of Shannon Funchess’ vocals.
But does it offer anything new? Well, not really. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of 80s electro will have heard most of this stuff before. This means that the good work of constructing catchy songs such as ‘A Certain Person’ is undone because the tracks already feel too familiar and quickly become a tired listen. And with acts around at the moment such as Cold Cave, Handsome Furs and Oneohtrix Point Never, there are plenty of people doing more interesting things with retro synth work.
On the surface, the record presents an accurate and attractive take on its influences, but in the 80s there were elements of electro-pop that represented the light and dark of technology and parts that reflected an aspirational futurism. These are issues that are still relevant today, unfortunately Light Asylum’s album doesn’t offer a contemporary mirror.