Blonde on Blonde. The White Album. The Wall. The studio double LP often signals a weightier artistic intent — if only the weight of two vinyl slabs. For the CD era, albums like The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness carried the concept forward. But with these media collecting dust, what can it mean when French electronic-pop artist M83 releases a double album?
Released in October, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is M83's sixth album. Starting in 2001 as an ambient electronic duo, M83 soon became a vehicle for Anthony Gonzalez, his growing pop sensibilities and his stable of side musicians. In live performances, swathed in shimmering lights, Gonzalez sings from behind a bank of keyboards and mixers, with a band that includes live drums and additional vocalist Morgan Kibby, who attacks the drum triggers and keys alternately.
In 2008, Saturdays=Youth appealed to a new audience, offering Breakfast Club nostalgia and the irresistible anthems "Kim & Jessie" and "Graveyard Girl." When I interviewed Gonzalez in 2008 for The New York Press, he spoke of his love for psychedelic music and long tracks, likening his own longer explorations to "circles" and "a drug."
"You're getting in something, and it continues over and over," Gonzalez said. "And after, you don't really listen to the end of the song, because it's already here, you know?"
Naturally, for the double album Hurry Up, it was fair to expect some freaky epics, some tales from topographic oceans. Yet most tracks are pop-song length, with a scattering of minute-long interludes. It's as if Gonzalez expanded his idea of circular music to the entire double album; the songs and tones do seem to subtly echo each other.
As with Saturdays=Youth, nostalgia underpins much of the album. The excellent single "Midnight City" closes with a sax solo straight from Big Chair-era Tears for Fears, while the music video features wistful, psychokinetic children gazing out over a skyline. With "Claudia Lewis," just close your eyes and you can visualize Peter Gabriel's red keytar and Tony Levin's slap bass. In "Raconte-Moi une Histoire," a child tells a story about transforming into a frog — a space-rock Raffi moment.
In this context, perhaps the best way to understand the "double album" aspect of Hurry Up is to see it as another loving gesture toward the obsolete past. Then again, few artists today produce music so well suited to the hoary format: Sweeping and spacey, Hurry Up has plenty of grandiose moments, from the orchestral "Intro" to the crashing coda, "Echoes of Mine."