eugenemcg_chroma

After three albums, it appears Eugene McGuinness has finally mastered the art of creative borrowing. With the same magpie spirit that saw the Arctic Monkeys’ terrific ‘AM’ taking shiny snippets of Outkast and Black Sabbath as its own, McGuinness filters the full gamut of tune-first pop through his own idiosyncratic prism on ‘Chroma’: the album’s opening riff is a misheard lift from the Temptations’ ‘My Girl’, which sets the tone for a record crammed with just-off nods to mid-period Beatles rattle, Prefab Sprout strut, Bowie’s psychedelic phase, Thin Lizzy chug, all manner of 80s post-punk and, most improbably, Phil Spectorised doo-wop and girl-band jangle on the chorus of ‘I Drink Your Milkshake’.

For all its stylistic touchstones, however, ‘Chroma’ happily avoids becoming mere record-collection rock, largely thanks to McGuinness’ leftfield approach to songwriting that picks the obvious chord only after conditioning an expectation of surprise. Combined with Dan Carey’s constantly effervescent production, determined to wring high-polished sparkle from every phrase, and a keep-the-motor-running approach to brevity (just one song here extends beyond three minutes), it all makes for a record of ‘Revolver’-style proportions: lean and slender but also tightly packed, with a creative heft borne of a such a rich concentration of ideas. Indeed, Chroma only flails when it resorts to experiments in bagginess on the album’s closer: the whiffy Eastern-scale bollocks/mysticism of ‘Fairlight’ makes for a damp exit – although its positioning at least allows the rest of the album to run with an uninterrupted, impressively bullish arc.

And that sense of purpose is what really sells ‘Chroma’. Where McGuinness’ last outing hinted at greatness but tantalised on delivery, his latest has got itself together in a far sturdier way: elegant and playful, cocksure but charming, this is the kind of melting-pot British pop that recalls brilliance without ever drawing directly, and the result is an album of addictively un-straight songs, confidently realised and, perhaps most seductively, played with unashamed glee.

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