...is a tad too calculated!
And indeed, the opening tracks of their debut recall horrible turn-of-the-1980s MOR angst such as Ph.D. Before long, however, the duo strike gold by applying 21st-century synths to 1980s pop principles, shimmering like a reborn Heaven 17. They'll play well with the Keane/Feeling demographic, but they probably deserve better.
Their self-titled debut really triumphs when it comes to catchy, clubby choruses, as proved by Black, The Colour Of My Heart and Love Get Out Of My Way.
It’s such a tightly sequenced collection that each track practically jostles for attention, yet the showy disco moves and shimmering synths can’t completely disguise the rather pedestrian vocals.
It’s also a tad too calculated, as though Monarchy’s image was styled before their tunes really kicked in.
The lineup: Edward Nigma (vocals), Peter Uzzle (music).
The background: One of the biggest mysteries of the moment – apart, of course, from why New Band of the Day only got runner-up last night at the Record of the Day awards – is: who are Monarchy? They're a duo from London whose two songs thus far (Gold in the Fire and Black, the Colour of My Heart) are a little bit synth-pop, a little bit electro-funk, a little bit French disco, and a little bit Yacht Rock – some wag has suggested they'd sound great at a club played inbetween Daft Punk and Scissor Sisters, and that's not a bad call. There have been a few of these wannabe slick, sleek 80s-fetishising types of late, creating soundtracks for imaginary remakes of Miami Vice, and Monarchy already deserve to take their place alongside the best of them – Tigercity, Private et al.
But the question remains: who are Monarchy?! They will apparently be formally announcing themselves to the world in January 2010 but until then they have chosen to remain anonymous and keep their identities a closely guarded secret, which has caused some speculation among bloggers who have suggested it might be Starsmith or Paul Epworth or a couple of members of Hot Chip under a pseudonym. But Starsmith is already busy producing Ellie Goulding, Epworth's got his own album to do, and Hot Chip will have their fourth album, One Life Stand, to promote in February. Meanwhile, the pair are giving nothing away: their MySpace contains precious little in the way of information, and their only interview to date comprised a series of pithy epigrams such as "We swim with currents and stand like rocks". Cheers for that. In fact, all we really know about them is that they will be releasing their debut single on Neon Gold, one-time home of Passion Pit and Ellie Goulding, and that they have done remixes for Penguin Prison and Fyfe Dangerfield, the founder member of the Guillemots.
Their own tracks are fine: Gold in the Fire starts out like a typical electro jam with spacey synth bloops and starry twinkles and some lovely 10cc-circa-I'm Not in Love aahs before the singing starts, low at first but rising to a falsetto as the music builds to a cosmic disco peak. We can't decide whether the lyrics - "crimson drops upon the ground" and "while the angels gently weep", to cite two purple examples – are poetic marvels or plain terrible, but at least they're trying. Black, the Colour of My Heart is slower and reminds us of recent moody NBOTD alumni – and 2010 hopefuls – Hurts. If anything, their remixes are even better. We have no idea what the original version of Dangerfield's Need the Money was like, but Monarchy have turned it into a near-classic of the retro-80s genus, all swelling strings and a euphoric chorus worthy of ELO or David Essex. If they can harness some of that cheesy energy and apply it to their own music, with overloaded tunes and OTT productions, they could indeed do a Scissor Sisters. Fred Falke and Stuart Price, is that you?