Luxembourg - Front

Bill Cummings 24/10/2006

Rating: 4/5

If you didn't know by now then, Luxembourg are pop noir: the Lux concoction is heady, Rob's scathing Suede flecked glam, guitar riffs, Alex's keys that playfully prod and caress, a rhythm section that positively throbs, all laced with David's Shah's, luxurious, honest, yet at times deeply ironic, camp Morrissey-esque vocals. This is clever bitter-sweet pop, each line has a double meaning, each song bristles with the frustration of years of being ignored by the mainstream music press, each chorus a living, breathing glorious kitchen sink drama unfolding. Not since prime time Pulp have a band's literate tunes demanded your attention so much, yet had the ability to grab you by the heart, get your feet moving, and engage your brain: all at once.

When I interviewed the Luxemboys last year, they urged people to look at the work dammit, we have and we happen to like it: an album of b-sides and rarities, a series of thrilling singles, and some stunning live performances, and now here it is in my cold sweaty hands, what I've been waiting for the last two years, Luxembourg's debut album. We'd been very patient; could it possibly live up to the old expectations? You can bet your life it does, and then some.

“Where streelight stars twinkle up at you from lonely puddles.”

The albums opening bars indeed twinkle in the distance like the start of a new morning. Before speeding into the “Faint Praise” whose crashing guitars and squelching keys are squeezed out into a glorious stomping chorus near the end, a bit like Pulp's “I Spy”, David sneaks into the bedroom of a former lover and sarcastically recounts the ways in which they didn't quite hit the mark: “I'll break and enter your apartment/ inventorising all your failings/ because your jokes were mediocre
and the sex was just ok/ and your kisses merely average/ not the worst but not the best ”

“Kids” then sparks into life, its pounding glistening rumbustious roller coaster of a rhythm section above which Alex's Divine Comedy-esque keys that sparkle and throb, is all underpinned by a tale of kitchen sink drama, and christened by David's special brand of finger wagging gallows humour as he recounts a relationship that's long since turned bad. (“you must think me very naïve, baby /it's years since I have seen you without clothes.”)
An elegant piano line signals the smash hit that is “What the Housewives don't tell you”, those scything guitars, a cowbell, springing into life with “that” addictive careering synth line, all together now (oooo-weeee-ooooo-weee-oooo). A Suede-ish tale of sexual frustration, David soaring effortlessly from piercing falsetto to anxious croon, it's a highlight of the entire album, the re-recording has only buffed up what is a simply MASSIVE indie pop anthem. If you think synth-indie pop is all about the clumsy northern clichés and gimmickry of The Kaiser Chiefs or the over wrought over blown stadium pop of the Killers, then I urge you to listen to this now.

Taking things down a notch or two is “Single”, an aching strummed lament, that falls back on the sofa and stays there cuddling you all night, a song about being alone? Or being ignored by the music industry? Probably both, but I'll let you decide: “I can't spend another summer burning copies of my debut single in my bedroom.” Then there's “Relief” that opens with Rob's vaguely country-ish riff, before unveiling its shimmering rhythms and a chorus that reaches higher and higher into the night sky, oh, here it comes like an aural painkiller, in its twinkling, bitter sweet glory, and simply gorgeous, catchy chorus (“Are you aching to get some relief here it comes in time to start all over again.”)

“Why Not move to the big city for a faster , brighter, better life?”

New single “Sick Of DIY” opens with a blast of Roxy Music style horns that raise the curtain on buzzing guitars, bouncing keyboards and vocals that spiral and spin with joyous irony. Sick of DIY? Sick of doing it on your own, waiting for him to come round, the devil makes work for idle hands to do: “It's not enough just Friday to Sunday I want you here from Tuesday to Monday.” It's about a relationship sure, but the title alone “Sick of DIY” hints again at layers of meaning: Luxembourg are sick of doing it themselves against an industry that has often shamefully ignored them.

Down into “Making Progress”, its itchy rhythm builds and builds the pressure: scrabbling guitars and keys that plays ping and pong like an Atari game soundtrack off the whole thing, before exploding into a monologue, a mocking anti-consumerist rant that eats itself. Modern Life is Rubbish. Where do we fit in? We need things to slow down.
Meanwhile “Mishandled” opens with hazy midnight keys that drip down your wind shield holding hands with a lonely set of guitars that lead you into this simply awesome swooning, aching piece of balladry, enter David's melancholic voice, but what does it all mean: mishandled by a lover? An inability to devote yourself to one person? and there's delicious almost comical irony in the chorus line: (“You want to see me and my 37 million lovers dead”) then there's being ignored by the industry? “The talent spotters round here if you've got talent then they'll spot it, yeah right” Luxembourg manage the trick of matching the personal with a self reflexive ability to question why they've been ignored for so long. It's all followed by Rob's simply huge, arching, wondrously sad-eyed guitar solo, before finally gearing down to David's lonely shattered high notes strain and croon, as he juxtaposes the pleasure and pain of love and sex; “It's hard to be committed when you fall for someone new each day...First you give me a thrill then you make me feel ill.” quivering and shimmering to a full stop. Simply stunning.

Then on to Luxembourg Vs GB that zooms into view on the back of a sublime incendiary outsider anthem that's imbued with bitter irony, and personal struggle; It's Us Vs Them. An anthem that kicks against mediocrity that now passes for a pop music scene. Luxembourg's speeding rhythm section and Alex's wonky synths are crashed over by Rob's guitars and punky shouting claims of abstinence: “SEX! DRINK! CONSOLATIONS! I've given them all up to be with you” before gliding into one glorious soaring, final plea for recognition: “we've been very patient/we've been patronised/ something tells me that this stage is behind us/we're standing right here, do you think you can find us? File Luxembourg Vs GB alongside Misshapes and A Design for life, as an outsider anthem of the highest order.

Luxembourg have done it; an album that fulfils their ambitions, a literate, living breathing musical document of their last five years as a band. For me personally “Front” is already one of the best things about 2006: knowing, tuneful, intelligent, glamorous, but above all human and honest: a record that can be just as easily played at parties or at home in curled up in your bed with a bottle of wine: a record that draws a line in the sand; who's side are you on? A step above what's currently out there in the “indie” world, put simply Front is superb. Now the world needs to listen.

Buy Front here