If you’ve been paying attention to indie music lately, you’ll have noticed that a certain brand of louche ’80s sleaze is highly fashionable right now, whether it’s the white boy disco of Destroyer or the more dangerously icy synth tones of Australia’s own Lost Animal. And while some do well to take it to extremes – think of Sydney’s Italo-disco crooner Donny Benét, whose live show is a kind of poor-taste karaoke extravaganza – it seems that the key to panning for gold in the worst excesses of the 1980s is, for the most part, to show restraint.
By that criterion, ex-Crayon Fields vocalist Geoffrey O’Connor’s solo debut Vanity Is Forever is a success, because although there’s more than enough cheese on here (including a none-too-subtle homage to Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock’s Take My Breath Away, on album highlight Things I Shouldn’t Do), it’s cut through with a complicated emotional sensibility, conveyed through sharp lyrics and O’Connor’s nerdy falsetto. (O’Connor’s voice may be a dealbreaker for you: I find it endearing, but I can see how others would find its reediness irritating.)
“I shouldn’t look such a mess, being alone is no excuse /I can’t tell if people flirt with me ’cause I look miserable or loose,” he deadpans in the penetrating Proud, a song about trying to break up gracefully. If you dig below the glossy surface, you’ll see that Vanity Is Forever aims for and succeeds at creating the kind of adult, sophisticated pop music that was a hallmark of the ’80s. Another welcome addition to the gauche ’80s revival.
BY CHAD PARKHILL
Best Track: Things I Shouldn’t Do
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: LOST ANIMAL, CRAYON FIELDS
In A Word: Luxurious