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Empire Of The Sun

Modern pop-rock music comes in many shapes and forms, but one would find it difficult to imagine one so kaleidoscopic and colourful than electro duo, EMPIRE OF THE SUN.
Formed in Sydney, Australia, both Luke Steele (vocals/guitar) and Nick Littlemore (electronics), had come through their respective musical rites of passage via The SLEEPY JACKSON and PNAU. Taking their grandiose moniker from a J.G. Ballard novel that Steven Spielberg turned into a cinematic blockbuster, the talented pair carried on from working together on PNAU track `With You Forever’ – the opening track on their eponymous set from 2007.
EMPIRE OF THE SUN opened up their musical account with the gratefully-received WALKING ON A DREAM (2008) {*8}. Embracing a sound very reminiscent of MGMT, DAFT PUNK and PHOENIX, with stage showmanship that rivalled that of worldbeat circus act, Cirque du Soleil (Littlemore would duly write music for the troupe), the album, too, was as glowing and golden as its outlandish cover art displayed. Almost cinematic and schizoid, singer Steele switched from whimsical girly vox to The CARS-meets-HOWARD JONES-type flourishes with ease. It certainly marked the Aussie duo out as “different” and exciting proposition, and armed with dreamy songs such as `Standing On The Shore’, big hitter `We Are The People’, `Delta Bay’, `The World’ and the title track, it was no wonder it reached Top 20 in countries outside of their homeland.
Capitol Records were also behind the release of the duo’s long-awaited UK Top 30 sophomore set, ICE ON THE DUNE (2013) {*7}. In answer to DAFT PUNK’s charismatic “Random Access Memories” set, the anthemic `Alive’ was pure pop, and as one critic put it: “sounding like Katy Perry produced by Jeff Lynne”. Okay, the EOTS team were exploring the possibilities of extending the shelf-life of mirrorball disco, and if one was not hooked into the guilty pleasures of `Concert Pitch’, `DNA’, `Old Flavours’ and `Surround Sound’, then one was seriously in need of a day out from one’s twilight home.
Australia’s answer to the PET SHOP BOYS, HOT CHIP and MGMT – all chewed into an overblown, helium-filled bubblegum – EMPIRE OF THE SUN expanded their horizons not, with the release of their third chart album, TWO VINES (2016) {*7}. On this occasion, surrounded by a revolving-door of studio session musicians and collaborators (including Wendy Melvoin and LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM), the dreamy set danced along the soft-rock FM airwaves with such aplomb it was hard to believe this wasn’t from Studio 54 times. It’d be easy to dismiss best bits such as `High And Low’ `Before’, `First Crush’ and `Friends’ as pasty pop, but the duo’s trick was to stretch each percolated vocal (and other noodling) to something more than mere disco; `Way To Go’ was a commendable tribute to the passing of hero BOWIE.
© MC Strong/MCS Aug2013-Nov2016

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