While extended gaps between albums from Digitalism are to be expected, both the five year absence since I Love You, Dude and the fact that they’re only now releasing their third album in twelve years sets a decent target above Mirage’s head; listeners are going to want something big after a wait like that. With 15 tracks and an almost hour and a half run-time, it definitely delivers something big, but whether these tracks hit all the right notes is another question entirely.
Rather than following their dance-punk style entirely yet again, Mirage focuses more on house and dance tracks. The punchy beats of opening track Arena set the mood perfectly, with its repetitive structure and enticing melodies. In this regard, it’s very much representative of the album as a whole, with songs like Power Station and the two parts of the title track Mirage being prime examples; while Power Station makes good use of it, however, the title track is ultimately lacking in both parts. The album can be hit or miss in how the songs work out, with Mirage being the worst offender of the bunch, as well as the album’s turning point; after this stage, the remaining half of the album tends to largely fall short. Tracks are rarely ever as enjoyable, with only one exception matching the power of the rest, and things start to feel much staler than they did beforehand.
Thankfully, the album does make one specific, valiant attempt to inject some of their dance-punk style into the mix on Destination Breakdown, though it leads to it feeling more like an electro rock track instead. Its guitar riffs and simple structure feel almost akin to a rock song rather than an electronic one, and the use of repeating vocals as it reaches the middle section gives it a pop hook that makes it even more interesting. In some ways it acts as the centrepiece of the album, showing that they can make an eight minute track that feels compelling without falling off; a feat which none of the other extended tracks ever really manage. In terms of strength, it’s only ever matched by the closing track Blink. While it’s a more generic dance track in comparison, its euphoric beats and joyous atmosphere make for a strong closing track for the album, and ends the overall disappointing second half of the album on a much better note.
While the opener Arena set hopes for the album high, its quality is considerably more variable than expected. When it hits high notes such as on Blink and Destination Breakdown, it truly shines. Every other moment, however, comes across as either lacking a hook or just featuring production choices that don’t make much sense in the grand scheme of the song or album. It also finds itself fumbling quite obviously after the two parts of the title track, which adds an uneven tilt to the album in terms of quality. Digitalism surely have the ability to make great music, as seen on their previous albums and even momentarily here. Overall, however, Mirage is more of a disappointment than a triumph.