To mean it or not: It's any revivalist's (least?) favorite question. In the specific case of Lies, the first album from British synth-pop duo Heartbreak, you can't help but wonder, for all its calculated emotionality and well-designed sound palette, where their heart truly, er, lies.
This very dilemma is best exemplified by "Soul Transplant," a track in which Sebastian Muravchik, Heartbreak's over-the-top vocalist, sings so intensely about Mr. T on LSD and Molly Ringwald painting a rainbow it makes you feel nuclear war is imminent all over again. (Especially when the actual production is shamelessly borrowing from OMD circa 1981.) It is hard, in the end, to decide if the duo is being purely reverential or is just taking the piss. And if that is the case, who is being mocked here: Those iconic pop culture figures? Those who loved them? Or are Hearbreak just importing the semi-ironic Neo Romantic coolness typical of the era while deploying a postmodern glow of detachment? The ambiguous nature of what you'll find on here is what makes some of the songs hard to fully embrace in the end.
That said, Lies is not devoid of charm, especially when Muravchik unrepentantly indulges in vocal histrionics reminiscent of Jack Shears' gender-bending poses (album opener "Regret" is basically a Scissor Sisters track produced by Fischerspooner ) or Heaven 17's Glenn Gregory's androgynous cooing (everything else). Then you have "Don't Lose My Time," a track that can't help but remind of Baltimora's ultimate Italo anthem "Tarzan Boy," while "Deadly Pong of Love" has David Carretta's menacing grin all over it, which is proof Heartbreak can do old and new with equal ease after all. With the single "We're Back," they even have a truly anthemic cut that goes beyond all the '80s codes, which is a hard trick to pull when you're playing with influences from such a heavily charged decade.
For anyone who took a serious listen to the duo's compelling recent podcast for RA, it is obvious this lineage of influences is overtly diverse, ranging from tongue-in-cheek Italo à la X-Ray Connexion and Blind Date to vintage electro (Drexciya, Japanese Telecom), acid (Steve Pointdexter) and old-school house ("Jack the Bass"). That's why it's so surprising to hear their own compositions being so strictly attached to one side of the electro-pop spectrum. On the other hand, stating in your bio one of your main influences is the "dark energy of metal bands such as Black Sabbath" doesn't help in clarifying what you're all about, especially when you're making polished Italo-tinged synth-based music: It is not only antithetical, it also sounds like a too-obvious public relations ploy to make your sound appear slightly different and edgier than it actually is in a market currently flooded by too many necrophiles already.
Obviously, what we have here is a case of putting too much lipstick on your disco pig to make it look like Ozzy. In the end, it remains a pig. But even if this reviewer still hesitates between heartbreaks and heartbeats, it doesn't mean it wasn't a cute pig in the first place.
Buy Heartbreak - Lies at
Tracklist: Heartbreak - Lies01. We're Back
02. Don't Lose My Time
03. Soul Transplant
04. Robots Got the Feeling
05. Akin to Dancing
08. Deadly Pong
09. Give Me Action
11. Living Just for Fun
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