Oh, lovely Rod Thomas. Pop’s eternal bridesmaid. It felt like something almost happened for Bright Light Bright Light after the debut album – there was a widely-recognised, endearing quality about the 80s throwback sadface-pop that recalled the likes of the Pet Shop Boys, but things didn’t quite click in the way we hoped.
Now young Rod is back with a new full-length which, as he told us in our recent PressPLAY Session, uses its title Life Is Easy as more a provocation of discussion rather than generalist statement. The usual BLBL staples are present and correct: heartbreak, loss, the pains that come with upheaval (reflecting his own move to New York), and of course, great bursts of joy backed by euphoric, immaculate dance beats.
When Thomas gets it right, he shines. An Open Heart simply commands you to move to its stonking disco-glamour, and I Believe is a house-pop triumph; elsewhere, In Your Care is a beautiful description of long-distance living to the sounds of a swishing dance beat. The common thread, as always, lies in Thomas’s undeniable skill to write a solid chorus and mix melancholy with energy.
Yet this isn’t a perfect pop album by any means – songs like Good Luck feel a bit trite in the face of Thomas’s sterling back catalogue, and Lust For Life fades as a forgettable ballad and suffers under a vocal teetering on the wrong side musical-theatre. But while the majority of it leaves us cold, there’s still a lot of captivating songwriting on Life Is Easy. It certainly feels like a more reflective album for Bright Light Bright Light; it’s just a shame that the intensely personal can become accidentally detached in the face of production that’s too pristine.