REVIEW: BLAQK AUDIO - ONLY THINGS WE LOVE
AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget have been making their own eccentric brand of 80s style synthpop with Blaqk Audio for nigh on 18 years now. Forgoing their usual drums, bass and guitars for lush electronic soundscapes, Blaqk Audio plays into the duo’s love of the 80s stylings of bands like Devo, Erasure and Duran Duran, as well as the burgeoning musical subcultures of synthwave and futurepop. Now the duo have completed their fourth album Only Things We Love. With the promise of a more expansive and experimental sound than their previous record, 2016’s Material, I decided to check it out.
The biggest surprise of Only Those We Love is that there are… shock, horror… guitars! This is the first Blaqk Audio record to prominently feature them, although in most cases they are heavily processed and act more as a layer to enhance the wall of electronic sound rather than be a main feature of the music. The extra textures from those heavily tweaked guitars are most prominent on lead single “The Viles”, a brilliantly energetic and dancey slab of pulsating, noisy and industrial-tinged pop with a chorus that’ll be in your head for days, and the fast paced post-punk track “Summer’s Out Of Sight”.
“Unstained” is a slower, more sultry track that keeps the pulsing synthetic textures of 80s futurism going. This kind of retro-futuristic vibe seems to be the general theme of Only Things We Love; a more dance-oriented experience than Material, yet with darker and noiser sounds than the Blaqk Audio have previously explored. This is, as the band themselves claim, more of a futurepop album than any of their previous efforts.
"Caroline In The Clip” is a more experimental affair, the verses being sprinkled with the kind of glitchy beats that you would expect to hear on a Burial or Massive Attack record and the aforementioned guitars make an appearance during the choruses. “Dark Arcades” ramps the Duran Duran and Erasure influences up to 11 and is one of the few songs where a guitar part takes a central role. “Dark Times At The Berlin Wall” is easily the most intense song on the album, with sonic textures more reminiscent of Ministry than the previous myriad of sounds we’ve heard on the album so far. It’s pretty obvious here that, despite having an established following and a sound firmly rooted in the musical sensibilities of the 80s, Blaqk Audio are willing to take steps outside of their comfort zone and expand their sound as far as they can take it.
Whilst it may be easy to shrug off Blaqk Audio as some kind of nostalgic flight of fancy by two members of a well-established rock band, paying tribute to the music of a decade that a lot of people on this planet never lived through, the truth of the matter couldn’t be more different. Instead of taking the easy route and languishing in 80s nostalgia, Blaqk Audio have decided to push their sound further into noiser, darker, punkier and more dancefloor-friendly territory. The result is a beautifully compelling piece of art that manages to look backwards to 30 years in the past, whilst at the same time being able to look towards the future of dark pop music.
ROCKODILE RATING - 10/10
Words by Robert Percy