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Album review: Lightspeed Champion, 'Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You' (Domino)

lightspeedWhen Domino Records’ dance-punk trio Test Icicles split in 2006 with just one full-length release to their name, few could have predicted the impending success of band member Devonté Hynes.  Test Icicles were, after all, just teetering on the brink of big things, and fell impressively shy of the mid-noughties’ nu-rave hysteria which would have inevitably guaranteed the band not only widespread popularity, but also a spot on the Skins soundtrack. 

Hell, it’s not even as though Hynes was Test Icicles’ equivalent of the well-rounded, all-shimmering, all-glittering breadwinner, with songwriting and song-playing duties divided roughly among the entire group.  If anything, it was vocalist/guitarist Sam Mehran – narrowly taking the title of chief songwriter – who shone brighter than the rest, but I’m led to believe he now works in a record store in New York.  Enough said.

Two years later, however, and Hynes had been snapped up by his former label under the Lightspeed Champion guise.  The name he’d picked for his solo outing was a subtle nod to a series of comic strips he’d devised as a youngster, and yet Hynes’ solitary efforts couldn’t have shifted further away from the haphazard melting pot of genres defining his previous project if he’d tried.  Domino released Falling Off The Lavender Bridge in 2008, and the response was sweet.  “It has the same kind of lush yet lo-fi orchestration as Adam Green,” The Independent reported, cooing at the tremendous gap between Hynes’ reincartion from Test Icicles, one third of, to Lightspeed Champion, bonafide solo star.

For what it’s worth, I was slightly more reserved in my opinion.  I’ve never been one to uncontrollably letch over Domino Records’ roster, Test Icicles really weren’t my thing, and, if I’m completely honest, Lightspeed Champion could have comfortably passed me by.  Sure, Dev Hynes’ first solo record was on my ipod, but I seldom played it.  It was an album I’d picked up and earmarked ‘alright’: it was neither terrible, nor fabulous, and I seriously doubted Hynes could sustain – let alone better – its quality.  I was wrong.

Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You hits shelves two years after Dev Hynes’ first release, and I hold my hand up and admit, truly delightful it is too.  It’s sweeter, more mature, and comfortably showcases the breadth of Hynes’ musical ability, raising few questions over Domino’s claim that the record is an “epic collection of twelve pop songs, two instrumental intermissions and one piano étude”.  It’s fascinating, too, to see Hynes integrate further genres into his already accomplished palette: classic music and musical theatre all played their part in the album, apparently, and it doesn’t take much for one to see that it’s genuine claim which, best of all, works incredibly well in practice.  But don’t get me wrong.  While the album certifies Hynes’ talent with ease, it isn’t the finished article just yet.  What his work here says to me, though, is that Hynes is definitely capable of sustaining – and even bettering – the quality of his work.  And if his second album is this good, I honestly can’t wait for the third.

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