Ou Est Le Swimming Pool - The Golden Year
Wed 15th Sep, 2010 Music Reviewsin
The dance music community had the wind knocked out of its sails back in August when news broke that Charles Haddon, the singer for UK upstart darlings Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, jumped to his death after a tense performance at Belgium’s Pukkelpop festival. As distressing as any suicide is, Haddon’s death was all the more shocking considering that he and his band were on the cusp of global stardom. Ou Est Le Swimming Pool were on the lips of tastemakers touting the Brits as 2010’s next big things, the trio had garnered hook-ups with the likes of La Roux and Armand Van Helden and they were locked in for a debut Australian tour with this year’s touring Parklife festival. With the world at their feet, what would make Haddon chuck it in and take his own life?
As we approach the (rightful) release of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool’s debut, and likely final, record The Golden Year, answers for those questions will not be found here. Of course, that won’t stop fans and the media digging for clues presumably buried in Haddon’s lyrics and the billowing clouds of down-trodden synths that envelop much of The Golden Year as to what happened and why. But to do so is to miss the point and diminish the stand-alone merit of The Golden Year, which, when analysed as objectively as possible, is a solid and very listenable first strike from a band now gone before their time.
Before diving into a critical assessment of The Golden Year I think it’s important to stress a point from the above paragraph and that’s that this record should be approached under an objective lens. It would be easy to be perhaps overly kind to the band in light of Haddon’s suicide and praise The Golden Year where it’s not quite due. Truthfully, The Golden Year is not a perfect record, nor is it the portrait of a tortured genius in Haddon. In amongst some ecstatic singles, a few tracks feel like filler and fall a little flat, namely Better which is a bit too fey for its own good. Elsewhere the band fall into a pattern of indulging their whims like on the would-be meaningful closer Next To Nothing with its grandiose strings and sullen piano plonks. And let’s not even mention the unfortunate artwork.
But such gripes prove minor in the bigger picture of The Golden Year which shows Haddon and his fellow ‘Poolers Caan Capan and Joe Hutchinson as genuinely talented songwriters and producers especially. The record sounds pristine and it nails the of-the-moment fascination with ‘80s electro perfectly. Tracks like The Curtain Falls and The Key glisten terrifically with an electric neon sheen, while Our Lives thumps along burning slowly and even the ballad You Started manages to pull of a genuinely affecting opening with its stirring strings and cascading vocal.
Dance The Way I Feel (Blue Eyed Remix)
Where Ou Est Le Swimming Pool shine brightest though is with their big moments of ecstatic synth-pop as seen on the attention-grabbing singles like Dance The Way I Feel and the Fischerspooner throne-usurping These New Knights. Dance The Way I Feel is still a total jam some 12 months on from its first release, filled with bouncing synths and an instantaneous chorus. As it’s so good you won’t even mind that they essentially clone the arpeggios and structures for latest single Jackson’s Last Stand. Meanwhile the standout tune comes in the latter half of the record with Answers which combines clattering beats, an auto-tuned drawl and buzzed-out electronics for an unexpectedly infectious three and a half minutes. Coming off like a rejected jam from an experimental R&B club, it doesn’t sound like much else going around right now and it’s very special for that reason.
Jackson’s Last Stand
I said before that the release of The Golden Year is a justified one, no matter how morbid it might be listening to the ghost of Haddon’s energetic yelp for forty minutes. It’s not about record companies recouping their losses and striking whilst the iron is hot with attention around the band, it’s about the work and talent that Ou Est Le Swimming Pool put into this and it deserves to be heard. It’s clear from listening to the disc that Haddon and his band-mates poured every part of themselves into the record, twisting and tweaking it endlessly until The Golden Year was the immaculate debut of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool that they envisioned. And so bitter-sweetly, this rather great first impression of the group will be its last.
These New Knights
Ou Est Le Swimming Pool’s The Golden Year is released through Ministry Of Sound on October 1st
1. “You Started”
2. “The Key”
3. “These New Knights”
4. “Dance The Way I Feel”
7. “Jackson’s Last Stand”
8. “Our Lives”
10. “Get Along”
11. “The Curtain Falls”
12. “Next To Nothing”