NZCA Lines – Infinite Summer
Released January 22nd, 2016 on Memphis Industries
Some have opined recently – in forums, at any rate – that the concept album is dead. This rather bizarre pronouncement is typically preceded by a question, something along the lines of “What was the last concept album you heard?” and expounded upon by a legion of adolescent rockists talking about The Wall, and why no one makes albums like The Wall anymore, and about how this is somehow indicative of the general death of music at the hands of those awful soulless pop stars.
The problem here is that every one of these people expects their concept albums to sound exactly like The Wall: dreary, overly grandiose, weighted down with its Very Important Conceptualizations and dripping with self-indulgent notions of Art, notions that are seemingly inextricably tied with bluesy guitar solos and radio singles. Thus, when an album like The Monitor, or Hospice, or good kid m.A.A.d. city comes along, their status as being a “concept album” is dismissed in these circles as they’re “too noisy”, or “too indie”, or “hip hop”. The kids wearing t-shirts of their parent’s generation will never accept them because they didn’t live through the 1970s or they’re not beaten to death by Rolling Stone.
Infinite Summer is another one of those albums. Michael Lovett, along with Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley and Sarah Jones of Hot Chip, has put together a science fiction story that has a lot in common with the sort of mystical concepts prog bands used to drown their albums in during the latter half of the 1970s. The sun has grown to the size of a red giant, and the destruction of the world is imminent. Half of the world, a sweltering urban jungle, has decided to give up and embrace the destruction; the other half believes that there’s still something worth fighting for and wants to figure out how to rebuild civilization into something lasting. In true Matrix-style fashion, both sides have time to throw a gigantic rave.
The dismissal invariably occurs here because of the fact that this is a concept album built around synths, processed guitars, smooth vocals, and the legacy of Daft Punk. It’s a relentlessly moving Europop-style album, and its disco bona fides mean it’ll never be accepted by the rockists as being a “true” concept album. Granted, the idea kind of falls apart when everyone starts dancing despite the impending doom of the human species, but at the same time it works, given that it seems like the sort of thing the human race would do in it’s hour of destruction. The tracks also get a bit same-y for something so conceptual, but there’s always something you can hang your hat on for the next listen, so each spin of the record brings you deeper into its folds. That there are a lot folds here is testament to the trio creating it; it’s at once sweaty, romantic, and stylishly aloof, and in the place where these three meet is a great big heart beating for all of us.
Not every concept album needs to sound like The Wall, and Infinite Summer is infinite proof as to why.