Years ago, Dev Hynes had it all as a member of Test Icicles. The English press fawned over him and his mates, and yet it didn’t last. Still, he has maintained his role in the spotlight by pushing forward with Lightspeed Champion. His second album under the moniker, Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You, carries him in a slightly different direction than his first outing, albeit one that exhibits Dev taking more musical risks.
The moment you realize Dev has grown up, at least in the musical sense of the word, is the moment you arrive at the album’s single “Marlene.” For one, the production here has been amped up quite a bit, which surpasses his earlier work on Falling of the Lavender Bridge. Aside from the production, the arrangements here are much larger, and a touch more significant. Just take the very British “The Big Guns of Highsmith,” which uses a chorus from what appears to be a troupe of actors who adore Sweeney Todd. Such touches have more emphasis this time around, rather than just acting as filler for the empty space left behind by his lone guitar.
What hasn’t changed a great deal is the subject matter of his songs. He still lives in a world where being left alone and pining for women seem to dominate his thoughts. One can’t blame him too much, as he’s still a young chap, but the future will show if his writing offers more for the listeners. Still, while his lyrics often seem somewhat adolescent, you can see hints of a young Jarvis Cocker lying in wait. His storytelling and his affection for large production bring that all to one’s mind.
Those looking for classic Dev, at least in the vein of his other album, will find “Madame Van Damme” a delight. It’s one of the few songs on Life is Sweet… that doesn’t seem to demonstrate his progression as a songwriter. It feels as if he has regressed in age on this song, which also alludes to the lyrical content. All that being said, it’s still a great song.
One of the great surprises for those familiar with Dev is that he offers a lot of variation throughout the album. “Middle of the Dark” wraps up the end of the album with a bit of soaring vocals atop a pounding piano. “Smooth Day (at the Library)” seems to find Dev living it up in that dessert bar, singing out his heart, leaving no emotion untouched. You can’t forget the Western-ish feel of “Sweetheart” either! Lightspeed Champion is interesting in this fact because you clearly see all the influences of the man behind the project; he never seems to leave a musical stone unturned.
At the end of the day, Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You is another good Lightspeed Champion record. You’ll find that there are several great songs for you to dwell upon, all depending upon your mood and desire for subject matter. Most listeners will relish the fact that the album is much more dynamic than Dev’s previous work, leading the masses to believe that there is only more great moments to come.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/02-Marlene.mp3]
Download: Lightspeed Champion – Marlene [MP3]