Burning through time, British artists tune into zeitgeist to engulf the spirit in passion.
From B&D’s debut "Not Utopia" onward, this duo have been dropping hints at a hidden depths’ nature of their oeuvre, and now, eight years down the line, the puzzle’s pieces finally fall into place. Which is why, while it’s possible and logical to enjoy “Mass Hysteria” hermetically, it’s much more rewarding to perceive Doz and Lee’s fourth studio effort as the last chapter of the friends’ first saga. Of course, there’ll be more albums, but the follow-up volumes should lack the freshness of initial ones that saw the pair of songwriters unburdened by romantic notions grow into a single creative soul.
Not for nothing this record begins with “Takes One To Know One” where Dunham’s heavy riffs and Brendel’s husky pipes pitch defiant blues in the cosmic core of what will turn out to be an entertaining offering – an hour devoid of self-pity, albeit slightly didactic on the anthemic, flamenco-flecked finale “The People Are Gonna Rise Up” where organ roar and purr reach celestial heights. Regrets may mar the nocturnal fatigue behind “It’s Never Too Late” but there’s also a hopeful uplift to drive this vaudevillian vehicle from dusk to dawn, as honking guitars and alluring vocals promise a respite from existential routine. Yet if the mandolin-laced “It Can Only Get Better” is a shimmering station on the highly sensual route and “You Took My Breath Away” – a flageolet-softened folksy epic of orchestral scope – is one of its dimly lit peaks, the triumphantly insistent “You’re Everything” is shot with tragedy, an excuse for another melody to flow in and stay.
Sure, B&D won’t cast aside their regular controversy and social angle, and the album’s title track has swings at celebrity culture married to a night-life elegance before back-alley ivories explode into a swirling space, but the jungle beat and twang in “Other Side Of The World” shape a different sort of humid atmosphere, one which allows Doris and Lee locate their spiritual core amidst the stars. Not that the pulsing psychodrama “Wrong Time Wrong Place” is too down-to-earth; it’s just that this number’s ecstatic groove can be overwhelming, especially once punk-jazz has been unleashed to stun the listener and make the passionate plea of “Take Me To The Edge” impossible to refuse. Here, the duo’s vulnerability seems exposed to an extent where the slow-burn ballad “Hard Heart” must elicit tears and sympathetic smile at the same time.
And that’s the very gist of “Mass Hysteria”: a journey to the hidden depths of human nature which form our ego and our external links – a major achievement and a precursor of a new, much more mature era for this striking partnership.