Lust For Youth is the progeny of Soft Cell and of Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough,” torn across the bleak landscape of 1990s dance music and into the sampler-obsessed early aughts. Though Lust For Youth’s Hannes Norrvide is fiercely reverent of his new wave idols, he manages to report on their sound with a millennial bent, rather than offer up pure post-punk nostalgia. Lust For Youth’s is almost a post-modern take on synth music, and Perfect View often reads like a critique of its own place within the genre’s genealogy. Norrvide recognizes the bleak and apocalyptic aspects inherent to synthesizer music (think Heinlein novels and Blade Runner), and even celebrates them. At best we have a coherent album that is smartly out of step with other, more sample-heavy synth acts; but Perfect View is hardly the synthesizer renaissance we’ve been waiting for.
Early in the track “Breaking Silence” we are confronted with a series of three-note arpeggios that sound kind of like someone puckering their lips in front of a vocoder. Set over a slightly decaying keyboard line, and under belligerent, almost brogueing vocals that could have been ripped straight out of Dave Gahan’s mouth, this souffle becomes the album’s most deliberately new wave track. As with everything on Perfect View, “Breaking Silence” sounds not only distant and filtered, but also over the top and winking; jabbing us lightly in the ribs to make sure we’re in on the joke. “Another Day” is an even scummier, sparser take on mid-80s pencil jean machismo, and the song canot help but to evoke images of nearly empty dance halls in small European towns; cigarette smoke hanging just under the rafters and stage lights that are filtered through cheap cellophane.
There is hardly a human element to Perfect View, and some of the more exploratory tracks like “Barcelona” sound assembled rather than than performed. Centerpiece “Perfect View” feels like the most genuine emotional reconciliation of the once fresh synthesizer music Lust For Youth is in debt to and the ancient, clumsy machines – and virtual samplers – he actually has at his disposal. The song is essentially a seven minute digital kazoo vamp over a cheeky danced beat, but it’s the transitions between choked, guttural samples and “Heroes”-esque keyboard melodies that gives the track some legitimate momentum. As the beat fades into a distorted vocal sample that images nighttime in the woods, we are given a firm reminder of what year it actually is. At least until the next track, “Vibrant Brother,” kicks off with a synth line and fogged out drum beat that are cloaked comfortably in New Order.
Perfect View is a perfectly pieced together album, with a very agreeable momentum. It sometimes feels as though the trends Norrvide has advanced his synthpop into are the ones that we should really be leaving behind. Perfect View‘s shortcomings seem to really stem from an inability on Norrvide’s part to step entirely into the fore and take more aggressive control of what should be pop songs. He sounds inhibited, as though he is afraid to break his musical loops and do something exciting. Perfect View is mostly very lovely and very tightly composed, but the album’s most “pop” moments feel unfortunately indebted to the post-apocalypse.