Maybe Doran Edwards woke early one morning, perhaps from a nightmare, and saw that it was sunny outside. And further, that the sunshine was good. Perhaps even in a moment of clarity having the twin realisations that while sunshine is beautiful, positive and to be embraced, there is also darkness in the world, sometimes obvious, sometimes cloaked, perhaps even hidden in plain sight – illuminated by that selfsame skybound orb. Or, more likely he thought to himself “I’ve got to make up for being in The Ghost Frequency. Seriously, I could go to hell for that one. Hand me my Beach Boys albums”. Either way, the boy brushed off the past, put together Weird Dreams – a band with a clear and attractive ideology (bright Brian Wilson pop, dark Dai Lynch undertones), knocked out some beguiling split 7″s and EPs and now hands us a debut long player.
It’s an album of ideas that, while often being imitative, sometimes downright secondhand, can’t be criticised for lacking a cohesive style and vision, with such veracity does it attack its themes and intentions. It’s also, both head and heart considered, a fucking blinding pop album for at least half of its running time.
Very much an album of two sides (it would sit so perfectly on vinyl), Choreography is, by accident or design, frontloaded with heady surfpop delights that while being lyrically downbeat – perverse even – are nevertheless absolutely uproariously enjoyable and addictive.
‘Vague Hotel’,with it’s oh-so-promising Shins guitar line, handclaps, tambourines and backstepping Go-Betweens chorus tosses out shimmering thought after glimmering notion, instantly attractive, instantly addictive, Doran’s vocals at once open and curiously dissonant. It is followed not only by the ’50s girl group strut of the poppy celebration of sado-masochism that is ‘Hurt Me Bad’, all trembling guitar, falsetto rushes, and huge, grinning, Best Coast-besting tunefulness, but also by another great, shining beacon of pop in the shape of ‘Holding Nails’, a tune that throws itself with wild abandon into the waves and cares not what happens next.
What happens next, happily, is ‘Faceless’, an ’80s indie tune incongruously replete with a math-rock guitar line and a Drums-y melody (unfair actually: The Drums would pay good money for tunes like this) that sheds a little of the summer and acts as a signpost for the delving into the twilight that is to follow, with its refrain of “It wasn’t such a good idea”. Again though, it’s a cracking, speeding sugar-rush of a song that leans neatly into the frankly fantastic slowdance Smiths prom night harmony of ‘Little Girl’ (with Edwards unhelpfully offering “Don’t be scared now little girl/I’ll hold you tight and let you know there’s no-one in this house”), a strangely tense and threatening ballad that stays just the right side of pastiche without tipping over (though that Weezer middle eight may raise a couple of ‘brows).
This is all genuinely great stuff and to be both celebrated and enjoyed – in fact these tracks offer more and more pleasure on each and every listen. The second half is a slightly different beast that, while maintaining the Londoners’ pronounced “sound” doesn’t necessarily retain attention in the same way.
‘Suburban Coated Treasures’ is our first hint at mediocrity here, while the minor key REM blues of ‘River of the Damned’ and the military beat of the nearly bland ‘666.66’ are also a little less of what you want. Although perhaps purposely monotone, carefully considered and delicately delivered – like anonymous album lowpoint ‘Velvet Morning’ – these tracks are entirely decent but lack the frisson and immediacy of the album’s earlier sequence. Again, with further listens their appeal grows but certainly not to the same extent as that initial run of glory. Has the magic of the earlier tunes spoiled us somewhat?
‘Summer Black’ with its Cure-bothering riff and slight return to the ringing melodies and surf-drenched cool offers a little psychedelic dip in the ocean that foreshadows the messy lunging of ‘Michael’, a track that benefits hugely from a wig-out ending and from simply sounding different – more a jammed out set of concepts without the solid structure found elsewhere. These are twilight tunes that net the listener and offer some sour sweeties indeed, the Lynch influences rearing their stylised, damaged heads once more.
While closer and title track ‘Choreography’ does a fair job of paraphrasing what’s come before – a bruise-hued tune that passes through the witching hour into dawn – it sadly ambles away at the end rather than storming off and taking the sparkling fun with it as you’d hope.
Ultimately, Edwards has very capably laid to rest his own past while rather brilliantly recreating a set of moments from a worryingly weird, stupendously tuneful transatlantic 1950s. Don’t worry Doran, no more tours with Hadouken – you’ve woken from the nightmare, your band is excellent and you’ve made a great album. Long may your sun shine.