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Music Review: Hey Champ – Star

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At first I had decided that Hey Champ‘s Star wasn’t anything special. It was, I figured, little more than a completely predictable dance pop record fleshed out with the sort of minuscule bleeps and blorps all the indie kids drool over.

But as I listened and listened…and listened, I began to realize that Star was more than just the sum of its hipster parts.

With LCD Soundsystem’s fucking glorious This Is Happening, there’s a reluctant approach to cool that helps create the disco-punk haze that floats that record so well. With Star, it’s a completely different angle to a comparable genre. This is an album that knows it’s cool, much like the disco nights of MGMT’s music.

There’s nothing earth-shattering about the energetic synth-led pop of Hey Champ, mind, but vocalist Saam Hagshenas and the rest of the gang wear their influences out in the open like iron-on patches on a jean jacket. The band ventures into a host of musical avenues and byroads, playing with the anthems of U2 and the energy of Shiny Toy Guns.

Admittedly, Star can be a tough sell because the genre is just so crowded with similar-sounding records. But the catchiness and general jubilation is hard to resist on a hot summer’s day, that’s for sure.

Cold Dust Girl,” also known as the song that made Lupe Fiasco stand up and take notice, finds a little Edge-like guitar work strung over a charging mass of synth. The cut is a neon kingdom of groove and Hagshenas offers his best Ben Gibbard impression.

Album opener “Shake” is probably my favourite. More layered guitar cruises alongside Hey Champ’s disco-sweet synth ladders. Complete with clap percussion, the track is a fun throwback that had me reconsidering a return to my club years. Nearly.

Some of the songs don’t work, like the band’s attempt at edginess found on the closing “Steampunk Camelot.” The cut feels like a relic of Godhead’s back catalogue, complete with pleather guitar riffs and Haagshenas’ embarrassing  note-stretching and sneering. And “No Future” mimics Madonna’s “Holiday” but doesn’t do enough with the concept to justify the indulgence.

Flaws aside, Hey Champ’s Star is an album of influences and disco cool. Its shameless lack of identity is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness – it honestly could be nearly any similar act punching these songs out, but there are some terrific fucking tunes here even so.

Perhaps subsequent releases will find Hey Champ exuding confidence for the right reasons. For the time being, though, Star finds itself as an album that I still can’t take out of my CD player.

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