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luxembourg – best kept secret (Dogbox records)

‘THIS IS NOT OUR DEBUT ALBUM’ is the declaration writ large upon this cd as you pluck it from its case. luxembourg want you to know that this is just a stop-gap, a collection of curiosities, a tying up of loose ends; their debut album proper is going to blow this mere bagatelle to pieces for God’s sake. Collecting together a miscellany of ‘demos and rarities’ when you’ve barely released your first single has got to be the mark of either supreme confidence or deeply stupid arrogance. Fortunately, this is a smart move by a quietly self-assured band.

luxembourg have been kicking around for a few years, stealthily amassing an addictive selection of intelligent glam-noir pop songs. My, how these tunes twist, turn and shimmer with the kind of stylish song-writing that bares up to close scrutiny and many listens.

The whole fantastic shebang opens with ‘Let Us Have It’ (as featured on the ‘Rip Off Your Labels’ Angular Records sampler) in which salaciously growling guitar smooshes up against some truly audacious keyboard squiggling as David juxtaposes two rather er, diverse lyrical concepts. The sublime rush and push of ‘We Are The Resistance’ samples exceedingly mysterious ‘60s girl group Charalelle and the Louchettes and manages to cram in both The Smiths AND The Prodigy. “Shyness is nice but shyness can stop you from overthrowing oppressive political regimes” sings David before a groovy ‘Out of Space’ style mental speeded up vocal swells up. Listen carefully to the live recording of an acoustic ‘What The Housewives Don’t Tell You’ and you might hear Kitten in the audience brushing a tear of joy from her eye, recalling the time, not that long ago, when this single dropped perfectly formed, like a miracle, through the letterbox.

‘Making Progress’ (another Angular alumnus) brings to mind Yazoo (blimey!) and Pulp’s ‘Razzmatazz’, before dropping into a ridiculously perfect swooning (yes, swooning!) chorus, then metamorphosing into an increasingly spit-flecked monologue/rant on the meaning(lessness) of a burgeoning consumer society*. (*This is the unofficial Kitten Painting reading of it anyway)

‘Lemon and Lime’ glimmers and sparkles serenely, and is delicate Proustian electro pop. ‘Make It’ has the sombre lilt of ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’ with David’s voice at its most affecting; dipping and gliding. ‘Success Is Never Enough’s Hi-NRG fizzy funkiness recalls, hmm, Bronski Beat actually, and has a middle that makes you feel your heatbeat thumping in all the wrong (as in right) places.

The beauty of luxembourg is the way that guitar and keyboard act as equal partners, dazzlingly offsetting each other, twirling together; then one or the other will break loose and dash out something slinky centre-stage, before becoming part of the team again. Then there are the lyrics. How about “You were schooled in a monastery” (from ‘Make It’) as a brilliant first line. Or ‘the man I met at the weekend is making me lose sleep, ignoring my e-mails but sleeping with females’ (Reasons For Losing Sleep’). ‘Then there’s ‘(I Need ) A Little Bit More (Than You Can Give Me)’, which luxembourg played the first time I saw them live. The song made me smile and ponder and want to listen again, so obviously they haven’t played it at any other gig I’ve attended since. Anyway, here it is now, “I came home early, found you sleeping on the stairs, with the woman from next door”. See, makes you smile. For the pondering and listening again bit, you’ll have to buy the record. Do it quick and you can say you knew all along…

RRRG: Gracious skewering spectrum

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