Saturday, August 22, 2009

Album Review: "Ready For The Weekend" - Calvin Harris

It’s that age-old dilemma once again: can dance acts make good albums? In many cases the answer is a definite ‘no’. But Calvin Harris is not just any old dance act. Regular readers of this blog will be well aware that I’ve liked his music a lot since his debut - "Acceptable in the 80s" and "The Girls" were never off my stereo at the time, and with "Dance Wiv Me" (also featured here) he managed to do the impossible and get me to like a Dizzee Rascal record. The first time I heard "I’m Not Alone" (which is officially the most searched-for song on this blog, ever!) I absolutely loved it and couldn't wait to hear this album.

At the moment, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been time-transported back to, say, 1982: we’re deep in recession, three million on the dole, the record companies are falling over themselves to sign one electro-pop act after another, and the British charts are full of rubbish.
But here is Mr Harris to cheer us all up with a dose of euphoric dance-pop which, even if most of it sounds "acceptable in the 90s" then what’s wrong with that? (I happen to think that the 90s was an underrated musical decade which will someday get the positive re-evaluation it deserves).

The album starts off with an absolute cracker - "The Rain" had me hooked immediately. Despite its title it’s a dance anthem filled with positivity and sets the tone for the rest of the album. The title track (and follow-up single to "I’m Not Alone") is a hands-in-the-air dance anthem with a great chorus.

"Stars Come Out" is like two songs in one: to these ears it’s got more of an 80s electro-house vibe than a 90s feel, and I love the way it changes about halfway through. "You Used To Hold Me" doesn’t float my boat so much, purely because its repetitive chorus really annoys me, but this is one for the electro-dance crowd.

"Blue" shows off a more reflective side to Calvin, and is probably as near as he gets to a ballad, well an electro-one anyway (!) I do like his vocals, even if a lot of the time he chooses to feed them through a vocoder/autotune thingy, but he even does this in a more positive way.

Next is "I’m Not Alone" which is my favourite single by a British artist in 2009 so far. Euphoric, commercial dance at its very best, which recalls Faithless at the top of their game, and that unforgettable chorus - "If I see a light flashing, could this mean that I’m coming home?"

I read somewhere that "Flashback" is to be the next single: it's perhaps more trancey than its predecessors and probably won't do so well as a result, although artistically it's a triumph I guess.

"Worst Day" reminds me, for no particular reason, of N.E R.D.'s "Maybe" and is a diversion from the stadium dance concept of this album. Like many other albums of late, "Ready For The Weekend" loses its focus a little in the latter tracks but is still very much worth a listen. Despite its title, "Burns Night" isn’t an electro-bagpipe piece of haggis-house but is a reflective instrumental; "Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La" won't ever win any prizes for lyrical genius but reminds me of Bob Sinclar, for some reason.

The ‘rich kids’ in the media who dictate and force-feed us with musical trends may not like this album and prefer to push on with hyping this year’s thing, but Twitter-rant aside, I doubt if Calvin Harris should really be too bothered about their criticism, as he's made a commercial dance album to be very proud of indeed, and has brought some long overdue musical sunshine into these dark, rainy days.

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