X2X 2015

Socially conscious pop duo reveal their progressive colors on an album number two – in a retro kind of way.


Suburban Ghosts

It’s all about memories. They start to flow with the “I came across a photograph” line that anxiously opens this album, but the image in question isn’t one of those which flashed through "Pictures Of You" marking Geoff Downes and Chris Braide’s first collaboration. Its tender ennui has been blown up into epic proportions now, peeling off melodic layers to display¬†a surface tension of social commentary – sugarcoated, if sometimes bitter. Here’s an illusory acceptance of the past in the “fait accompli” remark of “Machinery Of Fate” yet the ’80s Britain’s barren land behind the grooves is rather far removed from the unglamorous PET SHOP BOYS hit the DBA’s three-part magnum opus might be referencing. A three-decade perspective laid out in “Time Goes Fast” offers refraction and refactoring of remembrance with a transcontinental twist: although life can show a cruel streak, it’s actually been good to Chris and Geoff.

It’s impossible to not be moved by the desperation in “Vanity” with its plea for love, or by “One Of The Few” with its compassion for the outsider, but Downes and Braide have scaled the mountains of regret to pour hope into the melancholy of “Live Twice.” Quite possible, it’s dissatisfaction that drives them still, shaping the submerged piano splashes and guitar riffs of “Number One,” and if it’s so, there’s another illusion in the title track’s “nowhere left to run” claustrophobia which is shot with a solemn organ, as if to melt those specters whose coldness turns “I see” into “icy” perception. With “Interlude” and “Finale” confirming it’s a concept affair – kept together by recurring motifs: note the “Ghosts” melody buried in the upbeat surge of “North Sea” – that’s longing, not reverie, and one can’t escape the nostalgia in “Dreaming Of England”: the haunting snapshot of the fallow, if warmly remembered and painted by Dave Gregory’s slide solo, years, a memory of DBA’s formative times.

“Sometimes you have to leave to find out who you are” is a rule lived to the full on this record, the key to it – and to the listener’s heart.


February 1, 2016

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