On the back of no small amount of expectation, Dublin two-piece Last Days of 1984 release their first full player, Wake Up To The Waves on Osaka Records.
On Francois Truffaut-Event Socialogique, the opening track, vocals are distant and roomy, sounding like they’re being sung at the end of a corridor. This is how the singing is on this record, as if we, the listener, are being kept constantly at arms length, like there’s a party next door we’re not invited to. The music revolves around a simple, upbeat bass pulse, and polyrhythmic congas hovering above a steady, 4/4 kick beat. The rhythm thing is a recurring theme, the mid-nineties dance idiom of tiny changes in intensity lifting the songs, and the fluttering toms over the top. Over the seven and half minutes the pace never wavers, the bass never changes. When it ends, there’s the sense that it was almost never there.
River’s Edge works along the same lines. A simple lyric is repeated, as is a simple bass line, and bits and pieces are added as we go along, stacking idea upon idea. A double timed, distant snare drum and some processed guitar is a concession to a building crescendo. By Safari the acoustic guitars are out, and we’re in song territory, as ever washed in reverb and featured repeated phrasing. Kismat sounds like the roof might come off the gaff, yeah yeah yeah, but it doesn’t. Although a kind of Underworld on bromide mix, the glosticks fail to make an appearance. It’s the song for a night on some really mild ecstasy. “I really, really like you man.” “I’m fond of you too”. Cue some convivial handshakes in the chill out room. On the last track Woods, they let go, sticking in a chorus which raises the song. It’s the stand out track on the album.
There’s a library of influences at work here, and meshing them together into something coherent is an art form. Tunes rarely veer off down any melodic tangents, and lyrics are sparingly used. Intensity isn’t brought on by repletion of a chorus, or a swirling harmony, or some kind of angsty exhortations, but by layer upon layer of sound. Waves, if you will. The wave idiom of the title is not so far from the imagery contained within as Last Days like to obliterate the tunes in a surge of information. The songs don’t resolve themselves in a meaningful way, there’s no happy ending, no fulfilling dénouement, just the coarse crosshatching of electronic noises, as if to erase what has come before from our memory completely. Whether this is mere affectation of an act of mercy, I can’t quite make out.
Ultimately it’s this plethora of information, the knowledge base of adroit pop attributions, polyrhythmic beats and equipment that intrigues here. While there’s nothing that’s going to bother the whisters among us, the sense is that picking apart the threads of this over-complicated matrix might in itself bring some kind of fulfilment. If only they’d used this information for good, rather than for kudos. But then, music is simply that, music, sounds, the rules that are applied, the verse, the chorus, the perfect cadence and fade out, are mere tropes of an age. It’s not how Beethoven composed, after all. This linear stacking of squiggles may reference, and not just in name, a decade or two from the end of last century, but everything about The Last days of 1984 is extremely contemporary.