Anthony Gonzalez of M83 is a gifted musician with a knack for production. With his 2008 album Saturdays = Youth, he channelled the John Hughes ’80s synths of Simple Minds and Wang Chung while remaining refreshingly modern. In his latest, ambitious double album, titled Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Gonzalez still holds on to some of the sound and production that made Saturdays work so well. However, Hurry Up doesn’t feel as nostalgic of the ’80s as did its predecessor. Instead, Hurry Up’s intent is to create a sound that mimics the atmosphere and soundscape of a dream world, rather than of a specific decade.
The title of Gonzalez’s record seems a bit tongue-in-cheek, especially since Hurry Up is an album that chooses to take its time. Each of the album’s 22 tracks slide through the listener’s brain at a snail’s pace, taking him or her on a journey with detours and wrong turns at every corner and never once trying hard to reach its destination on time. Gonzalez’s work pounces on every chance to include interludes and lengthy instrumentals and to embrace its idiosyncrasies, such as on tracks like “Raconte-Moi une Histoire”, which has a child telling a story about a world where you turn into a frog and everything “looks like a giant cupcake”; on “Echoes of Mine”, another equally dense track, a muted woman speaks French over a slow, pulsing synth beat for four minutes.
Still, Hurry Up contains some brilliant moments that jump out from the dreamy, almost monotonous soundscape: songs that capitalize on the rhythms, whistles, and handclaps known to come up in some of the best stadium rock. The lead single, “Midnight City”, is a definite highlight of the album; it opens with shooting synths and echoed voices and ends with an epic sax solo. “Midnight City” is a song that hints at all the dreamy elements that Hurry Up wants to establish to its audience, while at the same time remaining accessible by constantly alluding to the familiar sounds of mainstream pop. This formula is what results in the success of some of the other album highlights, such as the back-to-the-basics “doo doo doo”s and echoed whistles of “Claudia Lewis”, as well as the echoed “whoa oh ohh”s of another standout, “Reunion”. When left to reflect, listeners will notice that Hurry Up is packed with many richly produced pop anthems, but each real song is nestled between two or three fuzzy interludes and filler tracks that never allow the listener the chance to appreciate what they’ve just heard. Highlights like the sullen and beautiful “Wait” and the bombastic, hair-metal-inspired “Steve McQueen” are two other great tracks that suggest Gonzalez had enough material to create a succinct and compelling 12-track LP. He just chose not to.
Gonzalez’s big synths and excellent production are undermined by what seems to be Hurry Up’s only major problem: its long running time. As a talented musician, there’s nothing wrong with Gonzalez wanting to live in a time where the album still prevails as the major representation of a musician’s craft; however, by releasing the dubious and the often-avoided double album, we can see that Gonzalez isn’t trying hard to adapt to the changing music industry—an industry that now capitalizes on the iTunes sales of three great songs, an industry that knows the album is becoming secondary. Which is a shame, especially since the stronger, catchier, and shorter album that Hurry Up could’ve been might have been enough to shake things up a little. Its dream-inspired concept wakes us up from the regurgitated, uninspired mess that mainstream radio can be. Instead, Hurry Up comes across as too elaborate and at times impenetrable, taking the best aspects of its sound to the opposite end of the spectrum in order to create a wall that a casual listener just isn’t able to vault over.
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is an ambitious work that pulls out all the stops in order to create something meant to envelop its listener, but realistically, it feels convoluted because it suffocates its standout tracks with filler and takes its dreamy concept too literally by putting its listeners to sleep. MMM