Aeroplane are deliberately trying, it seems, to flee the sub-generic nest. Even "Caramellas," Aeroplane's career-defining first single, is re-recorded here with added organ, a tighter structure and a livelier feel, marking the passage from computer-assisted bedroom recording practices to a full-on studio approach that basically chooses richness of production over dance floor functionality. Only "My Enemy," with its ascending chords, luscious arrangements and throbbing synthetic bassline, the poppy, vocoder-enriched "Superstar" and the icy yet magnificent new wave pastiche of "Fish in the Sky" seem to be channeling the likes of Giorgio Moroder, Pierre Perpall or Aeroplane's former self.
Luckily, recent single and title track "We Can't Fly" is in a league of its own. It's the album's treasured guilty pleasure, somehow evoking Carly Simon's gospel-tinged late '80s anthem "Let the River Run." This luxuriance of means is obviously helped by the presence of French retro-futurist Bertrand Burgalat in the studio, who gives the entire long player a myriad glow, albeit very retro, even backward-looking at times. This is apparent on the pompous, slightly over-the-top "The Point of No Return" and the guitar solo-doomed "London Bridge." "I Can't Feel" is even more reverential in its showcasing of none other than "Gimme Shelter"/"Sweet Home Alabama" backing vocalist Merry Clayton. It's an impressive performance for sure, but it's also a song that could easily be confused with The Darkness. "Good Riddance" is weirder, almost uncomfortably comical in tone, as it squashes C&W-influenced soul and synthetic arrangements with British revivalist Jonathan Jeremiah's deep croon.
The last song of the album is upsetting for an entirely different reason, as the Au Revoir Simone girls show up on the discretely quiet "We Fall Over," a song that actually sounds more like an actual Au Revoir Simone original than Aeroplane. It definitely has nothing to do with the cheery rework of "Another Likely Story" that got them together in the first place, and even though it shows De Luca's versatility, adaptability and utter respect for the voices he's working with, he also seems like a guest on his own album at this point.
If there were internal arguments between De Luca and former Aeroplane member Stephen Fasano, divisions that would have fueled their so-called amicable split earlier this year, they never let anyone see them. Actually, it seems the contradiction is now in Aeroplane's music itself, as there is an obvious tension between the remixes and various DJ sets produced under that banner and the original studio material paraded here. In other words, what's clumsily at stake on We Can't Fly is the age-old desire from anyone in the dance music community to reconcile immediate dance floor-bound imperatives and more long lasting, artsy and serious home-listening credentials brought about by the release of a first album. Despite all the sharp musicianship, blatant talent and impressive cascade of ideas exhibited on this long player, the tension remains frustratingly unresolved.