Art d'Ecco's 'After the Head Rush' May Cause Disorientation

Art d'Ecco's 'After the Head Rush' May Cause Disorientation
At its best, Victoria-based Art d'Ecco's brand of glam is a modern synthesis of all the usual suspects (Bowie, Bolan, Ferry, et al.), with hooks and atmosphere aplenty. With a voice situated somewhere between Marc Bolan and Ric Ocasek, d'Ecco certainly has the charisma and charm to sell both the aloofness and drama this music requires.

But After the Head Rush, the project's third album in four years, rides too many non-descript grooves with little in the way of actual tunes. The best pop music thrives on the thrill of inevitability — a gigantic, stadium-sized chorus is coming and there's nothing you can do to stop it — and far too many of the songs here sound a little lost.

Not all of them, though. On album opener "Palm Slave," with its insistent high-range piano notes and digitally manipulated saxophone, d'Ecco remembers a key component of glam that many revivalists forget: a palpable sense of foreboding, like a raucous party that could turn into a riot at any moment. The cool-eyed, laidback stomp in the verses of "Only Ones" gives way to almost industrial-sounding power chords and fuzzy guitar leads that don't exactly explode, but thrill nonetheless.

Coming off like the Cars covering the Kinks, "Midlife Crisis" sees d'Ecco sporting a Ray Davies-esque obsession with suburban mundanity and senescence. The wise-cracking, self-referential lyrics ("Midlife so crushing I could move underground / But I just signed a lease") float atop a groove so knowingly irresistible that d'Ecco wisely lets it ride out instrumentally for roughly half of the nearly six-minute runtime. 

The rest of the album, however, struggles to maintain this level of consistency. There are little pleasures here and there, like the way the initially stiff groove of "I Was a Teenager" eventually finds fluidity. With its pleasant acoustics and wistful lead guitar, "Erasure" is one of the better tracks here, but it's a jarring detour from the rest of the album. Both "SAD Light Disco" and the closing title track aim for a kind of grand dancefloor drama and structural magnificence that just doesn't result in a very memorable product.

"Get Loose" is the kind of pure sugar rush this album sorely needed more of; sweet enough to make teeth rot and packed full of the kind of hooks that could unravel your clothing if you're not careful. Unfortunately, it crashes right into "Run Away," an Echo & the Bunnymen pastiche that tries, but fails, to do what the previous track did.

After the Head Rush is only a year removed from its immediate predecessor, In Standard Definition, and it has the feel of being a bit of a rush job. The urge to release music in these uncertain times is certainly understandable, but with a little more time to let these songs ferment into something more fragrant, d'Ecco could have had something really special on his hands. As it stands, it's simply a good album, nothing more, nothing less. (Paper Bag)