Published Jan 22, 2019The fourth studio album by Belgian indie-pop outfit Balthazar comes after a four-year pause, during which both frontmen released solo projects before reconvening to co-write Fever. The time away gave rise to a lively new sound, contained in 11 concise, danceable tunes. Defined by persuasive bass lines, the songs are brought to life by memorable melodies painted in sunny, layered vocals.
Maarten Devoldere and Jinte Deprez founded Balthazar back in high school, alongside Patricia Vanneste, who fans will be disappointed to find is absent from the new album. The violin remains however, and its dynamic presence colours the tone of a handful of songs, some for better and some for worse. "I'm Never Gonna Let You Down Again" is a high point: emboldened by a smooth bass line and full of clever, understated production, it achieves the sultry feel they're after while also maintaining a refreshing lightness.
For a fourth studio release, Fever doesn't exactly garner the descriptor "mature." If anything, its lyrics come across as juvenile. Leaning on predictable rhyme schemes, the subject matter loops through banal, unconvincing tales of love and lust that paint the narrators as naïve and slightly arrogant. The final track, "You're So Real," features the cringe-worthy line "you're the best thing for a man, cause I know you won't expose me for what I am."
Nor does this release see the seasoned collaborators pushing the bounds of what they are capable of musically; they side-step bold statements in favour of formulaic safety. Fever is enjoyable but inessential, adding little to what indie-pop already has to offer. (PIAS)