French trio The World position their fantastic latest album, Nights, as the sounds of the ferocious monied class of the 1980s. If the wolves of Wall Street can have their own business newspapers, business news TV channels, and basically their own fiefdom in Lower Manhattan, then can’t there be music just for them, too?
Throughout Nights — which releases today via Kythibong Records — The World infuse the airless overindulgence of the hypercapitalist ‘80s with other components that temper the exploitative Reaganomics, so that the trickle-down is more of a pernicious phenomenon than an onslaught of Gordon Gekko’s rapacious lust for money and power.
There’s an emotional complexity and musical color that recalls the work of their fellow French nostalgia wizards the Valerie Collective — especially Minitel Rose. The songs engage in catchy and tight experiments that invoke the exuberance of indie rock in the 2000s. It’s all like sugar in the strychnine that is corporate greed.
On The World’s debut self-titled album from 2015, guitarist, vocalist, and synth player Nicolas Cueille, drummer André Pasquet, and synth player and vocalist Jean-François Riffaud sat heavily in the realm of more guitar-driven songs or leaner synth compositions. The songs had a bounce and chime that recalled the energetic work of longtime Swedish song masters Peter Bjorn and John and early Phoenix.
But on Nights, the trio ramp up the synths and dive deep into the world of ‘80s films about money, money, money — back when Donald Trump was merely a gaudy sleaze-ball who was tabloid fodder and not a threat to the existence of the world. (In terms of literary works, one can’t help but think of the hedonism embodied in books like Martin Amis’s Money or Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities.)
The songs bleed complex chords progressions, gated snares, arpeggiators, colorful synths, and bright and catchy guitar riffs. The vocals are more earnest than dispassionate, betraying a concern about the act of consumption. The band clearly embraces its myriad influences — especially ‘80s cinema — but they’re not victims of them. And they’re not really genuflecting at the altar of unbridled ’80s excess. Or are they?
“The Big One” kicks off the album with a twinkle of arps, a blast of synth bass, and a smash of gated snare. The main synth chords unfurl like sophisti-pop. “Hand It Over” has the rhythmic strut of Bad-era Michael Jackson, over which sections of catchy pop and jazzy prog stylings intermingle. “Secret de Femme,” fronted with a Daft Punk-esque vocoder touch, rolls along like late Roxy Music custom-fit for a luncheon before it loses its mind amid wealth-swallowing ticker tape. “Make It Big,” replete with exquisite devil-may-care vocal delivery, flows like a brilliant triumvirate of Dan Hartman’s “I Can Dream About You,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” and Flock of Seagulls’s “I Ran (So Far Away).”
The album’s instrumental track, “Aquaworld,” is a mid-tempo synth number, tightly wound around an efficient rhythm section. The economical but multithreaded tapestry of the synths carry with them a catchy flare that speaks to a mythical collaboration between ’80s Hartman and contemporary synthwave act HOME.
The rock guitars of The World’s past work are still on-hand to provide some added heft. “Big Money,” the third song on the album to feature “big” in its title — serving as a closer to the three-part grandiosity fest that opens the album — is a synth-touched indie rock number that through its tight arrangements and clean production again recalls early Phoenix. The lyrics seem to espouse the benefits of bigger and better things. It’s as if the jump from small fish to corporate raider is as easy as visiting Zoltar.
The axe fest “On Sight,” has the feel of the predecessor album, channeling the Lower East Side in the 2000s more than the neighborhood to its south. The song has a big bounce and a raucous edge. It’s catchy and memorable, but because of its guitar-heavy rock composition it feels a bit out of place on Nights.
Album closer “What Friends?” pairs a George Michael swagger with a sheen of crunchy guitar riffs and otherwordly melodies, on top of which an onslaught of spoken-sung verses and fully sung choruses appear to elucidate the risks of collectivity.
Ultimately, The World take on the task most would like to avoid: plunge into the depths of a sickness that has plagued us for nearly 40 years to showcase its faults while appearing to celebrate them. Really, the joke is on the suits who think this is their music. It’s an effective journey and a lot of fun. We don’t really get dirty. The nights won’t really catch up to us. The drugs won’t kill us. But, of course, the money isn’t really ours, either.
Pick up the album via Bandcamp or listen via the usual streaming platforms.
The World have a series of French dates on the horizon
- Dec. 20, 2018, Paris, Le Zorba
- Dec. 22, 2018, Caen, House Show
- Jan. 17, 2019, Clermont-Ferrand, Le Chapelier Toqué
- Jan. 18, 2019, Paris, Supersonic
- Jan. 24, 2019, Rouen, le 106
- April 5, 2019, Mourenx, Salle Daniel Balavoine