If you think Empire Of The Sun (not to be confused with the 1987 Steven Spielberg-directed movie) sounds cinematic, then it’s mission accomplished for the eccentric Australian duo.
Luke Steele (frontman for The Sleepy Jackson) and Nick Littlemore (one half of dance duo Pnau) dig cinema, and their band’s debut album Walking On A Dream is actually the byproduct of the complete script they had written for a feature-length movie.
“We wrote the whole script, so then we just wrote songs to fit into places within the script,” Steele recalls. “It’s a journey of discovery, like a road movie, but one you’re not seeing on the road” (press release).
If it’s a road movie, then it’s a road movie in space judging by either the album cover or after the first listen through of the 44-minute electro-pop epic.
Empire Of The Sun is MGMT on steroids or at least something that is illegal in eight countries. Where MGMT is mellow, Empire Of The Sun is outlandish. Where MGMT is Earthly, Empire Of The Sun is extraterrestrial.
The opening “Standing On The Shore” is misleading in that its relative bareness, although striking, leaves you unprepared for the rest. The title track “Walking On A Dream” creeps up on you with its retro 1980s feel before hooking you with a supremely addicting pop melody and chorus.
Subsequent tracks sound more dissimilar as the album progresses, but nonetheless maintain that Empire Of The Sun synth pop sound. Even the subdued (relatively speaking) “We Are The People” can’t stop the duo’s momentum as it shifts from a techno western “Country” to a celestial serenading “The World” to a hip-hop Justin Timberlake “SexyBack”-esque “Swordfish Hotkiss Night.”
By movie standards, Walking On A Dream feels short, having taken the briefest path possible to the other side of the universe. If you ask Steele, he’ll explain that it was beyond their control because “we really wanted to surrender to the higher calling, to the project as being the motivator.”
That might sound creepy, but when you realize there’s a true method to their seeming madness you take comfort in knowing there’s the repeat button.