M83: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming Review (Three Takes)
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are three reactions, three impressions, Three Takes on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming by M83.
There’s no contesting the fact that Anthony Gonzales’ new album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a grand statement. It’s a a double-album in the truest sense: 22 songs over 72 minutes. There are flashes of full-blown pop, unwinding instrumental interludes and cascades of spacey soundscapes fans have come to know from the band. While the album is a clear display of Gonzales pushing his own conceptual boundaries, the sounds within play out like retrospective, with him not only showing his new confidence as a singer, but also making continual nods to his discography. It’s a bold move for any musician nowadays to drop the double album and it’s daunting as a listener. In a lot of ways I think the album is incredibly bogged down by its length, but it’s not without its rewards.
Luckily, Hurry Up kicks off with six excellent tracks that each feed off the energy that comes before them. Together, “Midnight City,” “New Map” “OK Pal” and “Reunion” show a more confident Gonzales stepping up and delivering some of the best and biggest vocal performances in his catalog. His voice reaches out of the synth haze that once washed over them and it becomes the main focal point. This is probably the biggest difference that longtime M83 fans will notice on the new album. And for how good all of the tracks play out, it’s kind of a shame that it took so long for him to step up and command mic. The album then drips into the kind of ambient headspace that he’s always dabbled with before coming back with the piano ballad “Splendor.” One of the better standout tracks towards the end is the head-spinning “Steve McQueen,” which will probably be a great live staple.
Now, in all honesty, I’m pretty back and forth with the record as a whole. I want to dislike it just because it’s so long and I rarely want to sit through the whole thing, but there are some tremendous songs on this album and plenty that I enjoy. And just like his other releases, there’s an abundance of wonder and nostalgia and adolescence that cast a really dream-y mood to the whole thing. In the end, though, I think this album is better, and more enjoyable, in small EP-sized doses – which it has about 4 of. What’s really impressive is that throughout the 20+ song album there aren’t as many interlude tracks as I was expecting. And many of the songs clock at 4+ minutes. It’s a real feat that Gonzales was able to realize this album for better or worse, even if some will feel like me. Props to him for seemingly doing the unthinkable: making a double album in a time when the “album” seems obsolete.
Steve Skavnak (@steveskavnak)
Maroon 5. Matchbox 20. 30 Seconds to Mars. There have been plenty of bands that have taken a giant turd on the ‘numbered’ band name. Enough so that instant skepticism shrouds my subconscious whenever any band, no matter the positivity of their past output, releases a new record under a numerical moniker.
M83’s first record since 2008’s slightly over-hyped Saturdays = Youth is a behemoth in both size and scope. The fact that Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is double album is a bit curious, though. Over the two discs we’re given 22 songs, 6 of which clock in at under 2 minutes each, almost acting as interludes than songs themselves, and often times seeming a bit pointless & unfinished. While a good percentage of the rest of the tracks are smartly constructed and feature epic crescendos, the half-dozen shorties really seem out of place. Oh, and then there’s “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire,” a seemingly childish tale that is actually about tripping on frogs, which seems oddly ok even though a 7 year old is narrating the story.
Overall, this is a nice change of pace record. Rather than fixating on the backing sound wall, M83 expertly executes some addictive hooks that take a page from the MGMT playbook, but are obviously created more for a live setting than the album itself. Is this an album of the year contender? No. Is it even in the Top 10? Probably not. It is, however, the kind of kick-you-in-the-pants fun suitable for 6pm on a Friday, when you’re sick of the U2 & 3 Doors Down your less interesting coworkers have been streaming all week.
You know, its become too few and far between that we get some multi-disc efforts. And maybe perhaps we have Joanna Newsom to thank, after all her last opus “Have One On Me”, sprawled over 3 discs, was surprisingly consistent for anything of a multi-disc effort. When talk arose that M83 would do the same with his newest record, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, many never questioned it, especially being the talented visionary that Anthony Gonzales is. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming picks right up in creating a similar mood and feel to Saturdays = Youth, although he focuses more on the youth sound of the equation, especially after hearing the slick dance jam of the lead single “Midnight City.” Elsewhere, there’s “Reunion” which is more along the lines of XTC meets Talking Heads, whereas such interludes as “Where The Boats Go,” and “Train to Plutton,” among many others serve as great segways between the energetic tunes and the odes to the 80s new-wave, dashed in shoegaze. Without contention, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming continues the streak that M83 has continued to ride on since he put out Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts. Gonzales and company have yet to make a mediocre record.