Music Reviews
Talkie Walkie

Air Talkie Walkie

(Source / Virgin) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

Is it an exaggeration to say that Air had it all and then through it away? Moon Safari, not unlike M83's much-vaunted recent opus, came out of left field and blew everyone away. In the late 90s it became impossible to escape the unfeasibly pleasant sounds of Monsieurs Dunckel and Godin, two very sexy boys who made music for the lovers and dancers of the stratosphere. Then, inexplicably, strange things started happening. Live performances abounded with wild piano solos, epic keyboard prog, insane levels of Gallic pretension. Then their long awaited follow-up, full of celebrity collaborations yet drenched in cosmic weirdness, managed to bewilder many fans. Of course it's a problem with ubiquity - a problem Portishead, Bjork, and all other successful crossover artists have experienced - it's all too easy for the alienation of fair-weather fans to be taken as musical failure. While 10,000 khz Legend could never hope to command the following or sales of Moon Safari, for a band judged quite plainly on commercial terms, it was a disappointment. Never mind that it was an album of outstanding musical bravery and madness, unlike anything produced by peers, and which took the coffee-table eroticism of Safari and turned it into Catherine M pornography. And all with the requisite French savoir-faire.

So while their chums Daft Punk released the universally praised Discovery, Air seemed to be treading water. News that they were to work with a producer, Radiohead and Beck's old pal Nigel Godrich, suggested a change of direction, while the absence of collaborators, including a number of failed efforts with Cody Chestnutt, seemed to ring alarm bells about a duo losing their already tenuous grasp on the world around them.

As it is though, Talkie Walkie is something very close to a triumph. With all its shallowness and artifice, it can only ever be a guilty pleasure. But it is the most intense of guilty pleasures. With much of their ground stolen by the likes of Röyksopp and Zero 7, Air have pushed into the frontiers of pure pop, producing an album whose glittering surface is as perfect and polished as a pearl cufflink. Songs about love, about sex, songs dedicated to their lovers, songs about riding a rocket to the moon, are as sensual and barmy as could be. It's an album that allows Air to be themselves, to the nth degree, lush and layered, but slick and polished, a perfect piece of post-modern, post-pop art.

With the symphonic naivety of Surfin' on a Rocket, the effortless seduction of Cherry Blossom Girl, the temple-massaging instrumentals Mike Mills and Alpha Beta Gaga, this is almost perfect Air. Sure, it's as far from the zeitgeist as you can imagine, and like Moby, may end up on more adverts than Beckham. You can criticise Air for being fey, for being superficial, for barely even recognising an electric guitar. But that would be to ask them to be someone else. Talkie Walkie is an album that shows that what Air do best, what others can imitate but never equal, is simply be Air. Breathe in.