Dreams

No One Defeats Us

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For fans of 2010s Australian alternative, Dreams remained almost mythical, a rumored collaboration between Luke Steele (the Sleepy Jackson, Empire of the Sun) and Daniel Johns (Silverchair, the Dissociatives) that was whispered about since the two toured together in the early aughts. Over a decade after those initial hints, the pair finally issued their debut, No One Defeats Us. While their unfortunately generic moniker detracts from their refreshing retro-futuristic space jams, Dreams succeed in offering an ephemeral escape, delivering irresistibly quirky anthems devoted to love, optimism, and good times. Combining synth pop, electro-punk, and a dollop of Prince funk (they even refer to their "new power generation" on "Dreams"), Steele and Johns marry the most groove-oriented sides of themselves, bridging the joyous spirit of Empire of the Sun with the slinky beats Johns explored on his 2015 solo debut, Talk. No One Defeats Us is eccentric and indulgent, sometimes goofy, and full of pomp and an unwavering commitment to their message, which is repeated throughout the album as a series of mantras, such as "Stand by your brother/Be good to others/Help out the homeless/Show love to your neighbor" on the title track. Lyrically, such banal clich├ęs abound (especially on the positivity bomb "Love to Live"), and Dreams run the risk of becoming almost satirical ("Numbers on the Board" is an exercise in verbal absurdity, but still manages to hypnotize with throbbing production). Still, Steele and Johns deliver each line with such conviction that it's hard to resist what they're selling. From the intergalactic digital opener, "Movies," which sets the stage for this audio adventure, to the epic scope of "Young Minds," Dreams keep the bodies moving and the spirits high. Standouts on an already impressive debut include the glittering "Silence," the tropical bliss of "Dreams," and "California," which sounds like a sequel to another Steele and Johns collaboration ("Celebrate" from Empire of the Sun's Ice on the Dune), just passed through the robo-funk filter of Daft Punk. Without a dud on the album, Dreams deliver on the promise and hype, giving fans a blissed-out collection to complement their contemporaneous individual output and warrant a sequel that hopefully doesn't take another decade to produce.

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