We’re gonna level here: we genuinely thought Empire of the Sun wouldn’t have lasted beyond one album. While Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore fascinated us with the title track for Walking on a Dream – not to mention headpieces that would give Princess Eugenie migraine – we’ll openly admit that we prefer their guises as the Sleepy Jackson and Pnau respectively.
Our problem with Empire has been quite simple: they seem to have endless, tiresome variations of one song, stretched further by an overblown fascination with conceptualising an album. But hey ho, here they are again with an album name seemingly opposite to the band’s. Does this mean we might get a radical change from their tested M.O.?
The album opens with instrumental Lux, eye-rolling in its faux-epic approach. There’s a distinct Lawrence of Arabia vibe, once again an almighty signpost into the fact that we’re navigating Steele’s eccentric mindscape (short summation: Su Pollard on crystal meth). It’s quickly followed by the admittedly strong opening tracks DNA and Alive, which essentially amount to falsetto Icona Pop. No bad thing.
And again, quickly, Empire of the Sun fall into the same trap as ever. Concert Pitch and the title track seem facsimile of everything that has gone before. Chart-friendly or no, it genuinely becomes difficult to differentiate the first four songs of the album.
There’s a degree of success when Empire slow it down a bit, in particular I’ll Be Around’s glorious, icy homage to the 80s synth-pop. But then it’s back to business as usual with Old Favours and Celebrate, and an awful misfire in Surround Sound that even Sam Sparro wouldn’t lay his name to.
Empire of the Sun’s bombastic approach would be more welcome were it not so bereft of both style and substance; as it stands it’s simply a curio for curio’s sake. Of course, there’s a lot worse out there than Ice on the Dune, but our complaint here remains the same: you’ve got a great chart-busting hit, lads, we just don’t need 14 variations of it.