Eugene McGuinnes returns with his second album, ‘The Invitation to the Voyage’, a collection of swaggering, vaguely unsettling glam-pop songs.
Album opener ‘Harlequinade’ is the perfect example of that; McGuinness croons over the hook-heavy synth and strings, talking menacingly about MDMA, Zippo lighters and ‘going for the jugular’. We also get our first look at McGuinness' lyrical prowess; “It's a hoedown, a showdown, a shindig and a knees-up, too.”
When you look at who produced the album, it’s easy to see why ‘The Invitation’ carries its crooning rockabilly disco sound; Clive Langer has worked with icons such as Elvis Costello and Morrissey, and Dan Carey helped electronic stars M.I.A. and Hot Chip along their way. So McGuinness’ brand of vaudevillian electro swing comes as no surprise.
As Plan B did with his ‘London Soul’, McGuinness is taking UK pop music in a new direction. His voice holds a familiar Alex Turner arrogance, and it floats over thumping synth and occasionally grungy guitar. There aren’t a lot of people making this kind of music, and that’s a great sign for McGuinness. However it does seem as though it’s too dark for the mainstream, and too rich and verbose to ever be really ‘cool’.
On ‘Videogame’, McGuinness slows everything down, and rather than picturing the image of his slick, pool-hall villain, he channels a much more welcome Jesus and Mary Chain-esque sound. If The Horrors had written the soundtrack to Juno, it would have sounded like this.
"I wanted to do a record that just reflected positivity, that feeling of coming out of a difficult period and looking forwardm," he says. McGuinness has certainly done this, and there is a tangible sense of rebirth, but it does become a little laboured at times. Musically, the album is generally engaging, and it’s all very lush, but at times (such as on ‘Lion’) you get the image of middle aged men in waistcoats playing ‘really funky’ music to a similarly aged parochial audience.
‘The Invitation to the Voyage’ is a nifty collection of hyperbolic swing, but only two or three of the tracks really stand out. For the most part, it all seems half finished, so the sinister tone it craves is too round edged, and it could be razor sharp. Oh, except for ‘Japanese Cars’, that’s great and ready for airplay and stadiums alike.