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M83 – Saturdays=Youth (2008) April 23, 2008

Posted by ashiah in Music, Reviews.
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The first time I heard “Saturdays=Youth” in its entirety, my thoughts were, “I bet this is gonna be an album everyone likes but me.” It’s a frustrating place to be in, because now this entire review will be on the whiny, defensive side. (I went through something similar during TV on the Radio’s “Return to Cookie Mountain.”) The problem isn’t that I have faults with the music itself, my faults are with the direction of the music in relation to the artist who made it. For example, I hated Bjork’s “Volta” last year, but if the album was made by someone else, say an up and coming, fresh-faced new singer, than “Volta” would have sounded OK. But because “Volta” was made by Bjork, a well-known, respected musician, the shortcomings of “Volta” were simply unforgivable.

So back to M83. Their latest album is all about the sweet naivety and simpleness of youth. The album reaches back into the ’80s to recapture the young, vibrant spirit of that era. On that note the album succeeds. The music here sounds like the perfect soundtrack to an ’80s teenager. The problem is M83 is touting their album as a concept album, but they’ve been doing this all along. All their albums get much of its inspiration from the ’80s, and their past album “Before the Dawn Heals Us” was already treading into teen angst waters. Possibly the best description I heard about that album came from Pitchfork who described it as “emo Tangerine Dream.” I didn’t like “Before the Dawn Heals Us” either, but mostly because its descent into angry teen ’80s culture sounded laughably “try-hard.”

On “Saturdays=Youth” M83 does the same thing but with less seriousness and less ambitions. They no longer sound like Tangerine Dream, but more like every other forgettable ’80s band we occasionally remember once in a lifetime. I remember the M83 of their first two albums that delved more into experimentation and electronics. What happened to that M83? Oh yeah, that guy left (seriously, the once duo is now a one-man show). M83 is capable of doing better than this. The track “Couleurs” is a testament of that. An amazing track that builds over a pumping, repetitive beat, only to explode into another direction. That’s what M83 needs. Everything else on this album is just a small fragment of their capabilities. It’s not a bad album, but it is a let down.

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