Dapper British indie-pop band Citizens!’s European Soul has been two years in the making and its release coincides with (of course) a European tour. With the deepening Euro crisis, terrorism threats and overall global conflict, the band’s message on European Soul is to bring people together, as if catchy tracks on its Here We Are debut like Reptile didn’t already do so for those on the dance floor.
There have been a few changes. Bassist Martyn Richmond is no longer part of the line-up. Instead of Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos producing as on Here We Are, Phoenix sound engineer Laurent d’Herbecourt is at the helm here. As a result, the band’s sound on European Soul is more polished than on its debut.
What hasn’t changed is the band’s sense of style and knack for making easily digestible indie-pop designed to make girls dance. The vocals of one-time Saint Laurent Paris model Tom Burke are as reedy, wispy and high as ever, adding even more sheen to tracks like the house piano-inflected lead single Lighten Up.
Hooks abound and grooves sway under Lawrence Diamond’s retro-sounding, buzzy synths on tracks like the lively Waiting for Your Lover (punctuated by its ‘ohhhh’ vocal hook in the choruses) and the pleasant European Girl, on which Burke comes off like an English-accented, wounded-puppy version of Phoenix’s Thomas Mars. His innocent teen idol croon sounds so earnest and un-creepy that listeners believe that the girl being targeted ‘don’t need no chaperone (or God as the final line goes)’. The theatrical, pleading I Remember has Burke practically begging his love interest to get back with him. He even tries his lower register on the similarly-themed Have I Met You?, which showcases splendidly warm analog synths and jolly pianos. How can the audience resist Burke?
My Kind of Girl borrows a bit from 1985: the year when Madonna’s Into The Groove, one-hit wonder Stephen ‘TinTin’ Duffy’s Kiss Me and other delectable synth-dance-pop singles came out. It bops effortlessly in its punchy opening hook and pre-chorus, before spinning around intoxicated under Thom Rhoades’ squelchy guitars, Mike Evans’ drums and Diamond’s hovering synths.
The ‘gotta make your mind’ hook on Brick Wall is a tad repetitive, but its exuberant synths will get tail feathers shaking easily. The tropical-sounding Trouble has backing vocals coming from another band member for a change, with a chorus melody that seesaws up and down and even a synth solo in the instrumental bridge. The softer, doe-eyed, whirling waltz of Only Mine (which effectively masks its possessive lyrics) are worthy of slow dances and mass arm-waves in the air at gigs. Rhoades’ guitars get a workout on the two hooky closing tracks: the matter-of-fact Xmas Japan and the disco- influenced album closer Are You Ready?
Listeners won’t find anything too deep on European Soul. There aren’t calls to arms, unite, rebuild or march together. However, the album basks in positivity that is much needed in music today.