Best track: ghosts
click album cover to listen
I find myself writing this review on the roof of where I live, hoping on hope that I’m about to discover an album with personality and uplift to get me through yet another day of coronavirus lockdown. Probably now more than ever I’m appreciating the overall tone of an album and I’m starting to draft lists of particular compilations that'll get me through certain ordeals. And I can assure you…if this ghastly virus rears its ugly head once again, ‘Dream Warriors’ by ‘Taurus 1984’ will be high up the list. In fact, I think it will remain pretty high on my favourites list throughout 2020, the year the world wrote itself off, but also the year synthwave stuck up its middle finger and said “f*ck that”.
The intro to the album is a cool early 80’s disco-funk nod to GTA: Vice City radio stations that, if you weren’t already aware of who made this compilation, introduces you to ‘Taurus 1984’. The first track proper is the titular ‘Dream Warriors’ and it was this one that gave the scene its first flavour of what was to come from these guys. It was a pretty savvy choice for a first single in my opinion, as it's quite often we see artists opt for releasing their best track first in an attempt to enter with a bang. With a sweet guitar-laden interlude, some background chiptune and a powerful progression in the home straight, this simple yet catchy track did enough to put them on the map from the off. And as a result, the scene is yet to hear them at their very best.
‘Invisible summer’ follows the simplistic mould with a calculated number of different easy-listening elements. The track opens up with some guitar work that sounds like it’s been set to sound like the one used in the scene where Bill and Ted travel to the future in ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’, and it's most outstanding. The chorus vocals are accompanied by some delicate synths before we get a dollop of sexy saxophone. Despite it not being a track that I’ll take away with me, it’ll find itself added to many ‘Summer Synthwave’ playlists.
‘Ghosts’ is one of those tracks that you hope you will hear when you first run through an album. I personally prefer to come across one great track from an album rather than three or four good tracks. I need something that’s going to live with me in a scene that continues to release bucket loads of music at astonishing rate. It’s a conglomeration of some of the best characteristics from other tracks off the compilation. The only downside to ‘Ghosts’ is the lyrics. I didn’t know you could squeeze so many of them in to one line. And this led to me giving it my all to try and interpret them, which in turn takes the listener away from the overall product. Now I’m just talking about myself here of course but I finished the track after the first listen and couldn’t recall any of the melodies of instruments used as a result. In other words, the vocals take major precedence over the music…and the music on offer here is the best work off the album!
The harmony in the chorus and the outro is tremendous, it’s well layered much like those used in ‘God Only Knows’ by ‘The Beach Boys’ and I noticed that the volume slowly increases as all the songs elements heard prior to the crescendo come together in a wonderful flourish. You may notice this was a technique used in the outro of ‘Dream Warriors’ and it certainly gets the blood pumping. It feels very short which is a shame because the last minute or so are insanely-good! But with so much going on in such a short space of time, ‘Ghosts’ has all the ingredients required for a single.
Onto ‘Home’ now, another short, sharp synthwave shock to the listener. I found myself thinking, ‘this could honestly be a ‘Lady Gaga’ number’. And I think this goes to show that the so-called big guns of the music world are getting ever closer to being able to call their music synthwave. There’s an ace guitar solo in this bad boy that totally fits the mould and doesn’t try too hard to be something it’s not. Fans of 'W O L F C L U B' will be all over this track.
‘Callin You’ (because keeping the ‘g’ in there is just so un-synthwave) is another favourite of mine, absolutely jam-packed with very retro elements and some memorable percussions that scream out ‘Tears for Fears’. I love the vocals in this one, plenty of heart and soul and they act as the catchy hook that take this track up a level. Although it begins to get a tad predictable, the electric guitar once again adds a little extra substance to proceedings. I’m starting to wonder now if this is an album or a ‘best of’, everything I’ve heard up until now has more than enough potential to be released as a single in its own right.
Every album has its ‘Dancing on the Street’ moment, okay perhaps that’s being a tad critical of ‘Icarus’ but apart from a nice outro and another splodge of passionate saxophone, this track doesn’t feel like it belongs on this album. It feels more like an experiment with some questionable choices of instruments that take away that ‘synthwave’ element. I’d hazard a guess that it could be a track that’s been sitting there on the pile for some time. I’m not saying it’s a bad track, more that it's out of place. ‘U’ is an interesting and enriching piece, initiated with a heart-warming set of almost choral-like vocals that go against the verse-chorus-verse status quo in music. The lyrics suggest this song has been written in memory of a lost friend. Very moving.
‘Situations’ is doused in early 80s groove-funk that slaps the hell out of the bass (see Touch Sensitive – Pizza Guy) for details. Fans of earlier works by ‘Madonna’ like ‘Lucky Star’ or perhaps ‘The Sun Goes Down’ by ‘Level 42’ will welcome this track with open arms. You’ll be instantly transported back to 1983, one of the best years for music…period! ‘Situations’ cannot be classed as a synthwave track at all, for it is nothing short of a full-blooded funk pop beauty that has all the makings of a ‘Janet Jackson’-esque summer smash hit. But there’s every chance this may put off fans of definitive 80s synthpop music.
Rather than an outro, ‘Taurus 1984’ have gone down the reprise route which ‘Siamese Youth’ used to great effect on their album ‘Electric Dreams’. Interestingly, they’ve chosen a less memorable track in ‘Invisible Summer’ and this can have one of two outcomes. Either you fail to improve on a forgettable track and an opportunity to go out on a high is missed, or you create an entirely new sound that wins over those that weren’t as keen on the original. This reprise does the latter by becoming a late-night summer wedding floor filler with hints of mid-90s ‘Whitney’ and ‘Sade’ that’ll win over the romantic side in all of us.
‘Dream Warriors’ is a tale of two-halves. It starts out as down-to-earth and addictive popwave, that starts to meander a bit in the second half and as such loses a bit of its identity. But on the plus side, that makes it a much easier ‘sell’ to the masses, anyone with half a mind can find something to take away from one of the many enjoyable elements found within this compilation. Worshippers of full-blooded synthpop will get their fix, those that yearn for a blast of the six string are accounted for and in a weird yet mostly successful twist, there’s something for the stylish diva in all of us too. Joe Ward 8/10
a visual representation of the album:
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w o l f c l u b, beverly girl, prizm and siamese youth