New York electronic music veterans Shy Child (aka Pete Cafarella and Nate Smith) return with their fourth full length, Liquid Love. Opening with the title track, the duo instantly establish an ethereal electro dreamscape that continues throughout the album; dancing keys and euphoric synth complement an uplifting beat that serves as an instant pick-me-up, even if it does sound like it’s right out of a trashy night in Ibiza circa 1986.
Sadly, the vibe wears thin all too soon. Singing in falsetto, perhaps a few octaves too high for his register, front man Cafarella draws the attention away from the train wreck that is his uninspired, almost cheesy lyrics: “To tell you the truth, when I look at the world/I’m in shock and awe/From the moon to the water I can’t ask for more/From the joy to the sorrow, I can’t ask for more… Pleasure and pain they sometimes feel the same”
As each track fades out with the subtlety of a novice DJ, I’m overcome with a sharp stab of kitsch. Bad, bad kitsch. From the computer programmed beats and synth build ups to the predictable ‘American teen phonecall’ voice sample on ‘Criss Cross’. Perhaps what Shy Child were doing 10 years ago was hip and retrospective, but now it just reeks of some bad passé fromage that’s been left in the fridge a bit too long. In another 5-10, when the 80s phenomena returns or when the cheese matures, it will again be palatable. But for now, it just leaves a bit of a vomity taste in the mouth. Alas, It has been done, it has had its time and hey, probably wasn’t even that good to begin with. Tisk tisk Shy Child, you call yourself a “progressive dance band” (according to wiki), so be progressive, don’t keep stepping backwards, it ain’t gonna cut it this time round.
To throw another bad analogy into the mix, because hey, there really isn’t much else to say about this floozy of a record, the entire album can be likened to the superficial high one gets from say, amphetamines. Too far? Ok, candy. A strange little colourful bag of mixed lollies, packaged so attractively it just screams ‘fun! ‘ So without thinking, you blow all your pocket money on it, gorge yourself and get caught up in the sugar high, just like a greedy child who doesn’t know better. It gives you a happy buzz, of which you can’t remember much – it’s all a blur, no one sour peach heart of gummy bear is that indistinguishable from the other (like each song on this record). But then it wears off, you’ve had too much and feel ill. Your head is sore. Lethargy creeps up. Now you see those tainted sugary treats for what they really are; a cheap, sensationalist thrill that leaves you thirsty, regretful and with a toothache. You put the bag at the back of the cupboard, or in the bin where it belongs, and vow to never lay hands on it again.
So what else can be said of this… uhh… ‘toothache’ of a record? Its romantic sentiment does somewhat ease the pain. Writing songs about love, with a beat and plenty of throbbing dance-floor synth makes it remotely catchy, but fundamentally there is nothing much that stands out about this album. The production is crisply clean and showcases some great ambient sounds, which makes for good background music. Yes, background. Umm… it showcases the wonders than can be done with a modern age computer? Yay enlightenment. Ok, so it does get slightly better towards the end of the album, when Smith and Cafarella delve a bit more into obscurity, if obscurity is in fact something this band do. Ok, at least they incorporate a few different instruments, song structures and subject content. But it’s too little, too late. In my eyes, Shy Child should embrace its name and the naive social anxieties it evokes.
Stay shy, child. I don’t want to hear your badly penned, synthed-out thoughts on the viscosity of a broken heart. I prefer gummi bears.