Album: Best Youth – ‘Highway Moon’

Best Youth‘s album, so it would appear, is about the vicissitudes of modern-day love; the cut and thrust, the push and pull, the meaningfulness and accompanying decadence, the all-consuming nature of what it is for modern people to rub up against each other while imputing that they care, that they love. This is the happy moment before mortgages are signed and arteriosclerosis sets in. It’s about the best of youth, hence the band’s name.

Highway Moon is a slide – perhaps even a moonwalk – back to a version of 1985 when the slick vapidity of Sonny Crockett and the technological chutzpah of Harold Faltermeyer briefly ruled the mainstream musical roost. But that’s the trouble with the 1980s. To those who remember that decade, it was, on the whole, a time of artistic disintegration, so when a record comes along that pays homage to that dastardly period, the alarms bells begin to ring. Back then the hair was big, the shoulders wide and the easy money of upward mobility kept everyone supine. And now the old synthy sound of Reaganomics has returned (if, indeed, it ever really went away).

But that’s not to say that this LP is an artistic misstep. Kicking off proceedings with ‘Red Diamond’, we’re offered an orchestral manoeuvre, synthesised, echoing electronically on the third rung of a ladder that leads to the upper deck of modern pop expression. It works, and with ‘Black Eyes’ the considered nostalgia increases, tinged with a hyper-sexualisation before the heavy disco funk of ‘Mirrorball’ sets you right. ‘Maybe We Can Still Be Friends’ reveals a Deborah Harry fetish while ‘Mouth’ fixates knowingly on boyfriends. Then comes ‘Fanatic’ which possesses similar sonic attributes as can be found on Paul Weller’s ‘Sonik Kicks’ and which, one can suppose, evince a commonality of expression when it comes to cutting a modern pop record.

The stand-out track ‘When All The Lights Are Down’ is stripped back to the vocal and an electric guitar with plenty of reverb. It’s effective and classic, the album touching on Asha Puthli with ‘Infinite Stare’ before drifting to a close with ‘Rain On The Windshield’, the record ending on a mood, wrapped up in studio considerations, arrangements, tempo and a silence that laps into and drowns the final chords. That said, and given that it’s weighed down somewhat by nostalgia for a best-forgotten decade, it’s good modern pop. Taste it, chew it. Then move on, emboldened.

Highway Moon is out now.

Jason Holmes