Capsule Review: M83

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April 22, 2008

3:35 AM

M83 Saturdays=Youth

Saturdays exist to alleviate the insanity of the work week, and with “Saturdays=Youth,” M83’s Anthony Gonzalez so literally presents this idea that one wonders if he has just fallen asleep in his created dreamscape.

The album is meant as a meditation on youthful exuberance, seen through a pair of ’80s shades, but world-weary nostalgia has muddied the exuberant part. We are left a monochromatic series of synth-heavy, droning ideas. And that is my main gripe with this album — not that the music is of poor quality, but that the songs feel overly content to hover around a singular sound, repeated for five minutes — each track like an unfinished sentence.

M83’s mellower side reminds me of The Knife’s 2006 album “Silent Shout,” but the awkwardly dark aesthetic heard in many of the tracks on “Saturdays=Youth” finds little to contrast. The epic bent of “Highway of Endless Dreams” sweeps and builds to the point where I’m ready for an explosion — any kind of change. It never comes — the next song starts, leaving the angst envoked by the previous song without an outlet. Gonzalez is instead all too happy to reminisce and scratch his own back self-indulgently.

The lyrics don’t fare any better. They are odd and disturbing to annoying effect. When I hear a whispery female intonation of “she pulls back the skin to show her ribs / that twinkle like shooting stars,” I want to jump to the next track.

To get the most from this album, move to a quiet place, wear muted colors, smoke a cigarette, remember the days when you were “15 years old and feeling like it’s already too late to live,” buy a half dozen cats and stroke them in turn as you realize this music is bad at faking its significance. Ultimately,

“Saturdays=Youth” promotes a sense of youthful ambivalence. You have to let its ’80s nostalgia and underdeveloped atmospheres pass.

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