Lightspeed Champion Falling Off The Lavender Bridge(Domino) Buy it from Insound
There haven’t been many bands as divisive as Test Icicles in recent memory, have there? After all, for every individual who thought they were a uniquely independent voice amid the alternative morass of the mid-decade, a welcome crystallisation of the anarchic promise of Selfish Cunt, or the godfathers of new rave, there were plenty more who regarded them as an asinine execution of the inspired notion of blending Slipknot and the Beasties, an irritating waste of a thoroughly excellent name, or simply an in-joke taken too far. Were you in the latter camp? If so, you’ll probably take one look at erstwhile Icicle Dev Hynes’ superheroic moniker, glance at a sleeve that casts him as Andre 3000’s mild-mannered alter ego, and run for the hills.
However, this might not be the most advisable of moves. Yes, he remains a mischievous force, and there’s no denying that Falling Off The Lavender Bridge is a faintly schizophrenic offering, but it actually highlights several qualities in Hynes that were overlooked amid the confrontational chaos of his previous works. For one thing, he’s got a sweetly breathy singing voice not a million miles from Evan Dando, which obviously works a treat when he’s belting out the more alt.countrified numbers here, such as the mandolin-fuelled rumble of Dry Lips or the homespun-yet-oddly-violent Devil Tricks For A Bitch. Moreover, he’s turned out to be an unusually poetic lyricist, with the somnambulant reveries of No Surprise or the amazingly graphic medical collapse of the suffering spirit in Dry Lips revealing a darkly sensitive sensibility.
And then, of course, there’s the genuinely remarkable run of singles. Tell Me What It’s Worth, excitingly, has already breached the lower end of the real world charts, and rightly so: it may start out broadly similar to Morrissey’s First Of The Gang To Die, but he’d never sing about busting rhymes on a street corner, and it continues with this incongruity and imagination throughout. Moreover, its predecessors are even better; Galaxy Of The Lost, a collaboration with Emmy The Great that far outstrips her own endeavours thus far, joins the pantheon of magical indie duetting that takes in the likes of Lazy Lie Painter Jane and Travelling Light, while Midnight Surprise, reprised here as the centre point of the whole album, impressed as a single even amid the embarrassment of riches thrown up last year and still stands staggeringly as a ten-minute odyssey of acoustica, flowering psych-pop and the sort of panoramic insight that was so de rigueur in millennial Americana.
It’s not a totally flawless affair, admittedly – the pace does somewhat slacken in the final quarter, and calling a track Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk suggests an unlikely disconnection with the zeitgeist – and, if anything, it’s the more hardcore fans of Hynes’ previous work that are going to be left the most disappointed. Nonetheless, Falling... is a remarkable leap forward; as Lightspeed Champion, Hynes is, at last, a serious contender.