Album: Air

Talkie Walkie, Source / Virgin
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Having squandered their early promise on the empty, pseudo-symphonic prog rock of The Virgin Suicides and the ghastly electroniconcept album 10,000Hz Legend, J-B Dunckel and Nicolas Godin attempt a belated volte-face with Talkie Walkie, returning to a style closer to the gossamer techno-pop of their debut, Moon Safari. It's the right move but at the wrong time: too much has passed under the bridge for this stylistic reprise to carry any real conviction. So, although "Venus" and "Cherry Blossom Girl" recall the airy pastel-pop of "Sexy Boy" and "Kelly Watch the Skies" respectively, both sound slightly bogus. "Tell me, why can't it be true?" Dunckel sings on the second. Well, one answer is because it sounds altogether too contrived, the carefully measured ethereal synth pads and politely ticking rhythms lacking the freshness of the songs' models. "Run" features some pleasantly resonant metallic tones, but the vocoder is irritating and the "I'm Not in Love"-style susurrus of hums overdone; but it's better than later tracks such as "Mike Mills", whose endlessly cycling keyboard ostinatos are as empty and redundant as the most turgid prog-rock excesses. The overall result is like a pale photocopy of Air's early work, less well defined and nowhere near as compelling.