Tuesday, April 29, 2008

M83 - Saturdays=Youth

Grade: A-

I'm 15 years old, and I already feel that it's too late to live...don't you?

With these words, during a spoken-word passage from "Graveyard Girl" (the second single from Saturdays=Youth) reminiscent of Cecilia Lisbon's diary entries in The Virgin Suicides, M83 (the primary creative outlet for one Anthony Gonzalez) expertly captures the adolescent frame of mind: namely, mistaking your own naivete for romanticism, the result of which is both spending many a night yearning for sweet escapism to problems that, upon reflection, are almost comically exaggerated and sincerely dreaming up a better life when you're more grown up.

Reflecting upon that worldview in your mid-twenties may make one realize how absurd and melodramatic such a frame of mind can be, but it also makes you think about the sweet and earnest place where such thoughts and sentiments can come from. Stubborn, youthful idealism is both admirable and self-defeating, and "Graveyard Girl", along with the many other great tracks from Saturdays=Youth (M83's fifth album), capture this emotional essence perfectly.

Taking its cues from the romanticism of 1980s teen films (both the Molly Ringwold namedrop in "Graveyard Girl" and the actress' doppelganger on the album's cover should be pretty clear indicators as to which director from that decade had the biggest impact on Gonzalez), as well as the synthesized alt-pop music (Cocteau Twins, The Cure, Depeche Mode) from that era, Saturdays=Youth is firmly entrenched in the sounds of the Reagan-era.

But instead of being solely an exercise in nostalgia for its own sake, M83 take that template and filters it through the Berlin-Wall-of-Sound prism of 90s shoegazer acts like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. "Couleurs" sounds especially like it came from the post-Souvlaki EPs while “Highway to Endless Dreams” sounds like late 80s Cure (just right before they informed us of the fact that Saturday-Thursdays aren’t good for Robert Smith w/r/t love). Elsewhere, "Graveyard Girl" recalls The Jesus and Mary Chain, albeit a version took prom seriously, and album highlight "Kim & Jessie" emulates Tears For Fears.

While changing from more formless, ambient soundscapes to straightforward song-structure and epic, echo-y choruses might cause some to question the artistic integrity of such a move, Saturdays=Youth rebuts those charges by, like all great records, being both relevant to the present and reverent toward the past. By paying homage to his teenage years, and the iconic music made therein, M83 create a document that just may be as revered as those the band grew up revering in the first place.

M83 MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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