After the Headrush

Art d'Ecco

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After the Headrush Review

by Heather Phares

With After the Headrush, Art d'Ecco takes the postmodern self-awareness of his music to the nth degree, name-checking not only Neil Young's discography but one of the more infectious tracks off his previous album In Standard Definition. It's no coincidence that this set of songs feels like a companion piece to that record's twistedly catchy examinations of nostalgia, but After the Headrush just might be even more consistent. D'Ecco's ear for detail remains sharp, and he mixed Headrush with Mark Lawson, whose work with Arcade Fire suggests he knows something about creating space within a mix. That expertise comes in handy with the album's maximalist take on glam rock, disco, and new wave, all of which were major factors in why In Standard Definition was such a treat. On "Get Loose," d'Ecco delivers lots of platform-shoed fun with note-perfect re-creations of the tight, buzzy guitars, handclaps, shuffling beats, and glittery keyboards of glam in all its vintage glory, then offers a fever-dream take on the style with "Palm Slave"'s swirling keys and saxophone. Inspired by the juxtaposition of his past and present lives that occurred when d'Ecco moved back to his hometown of Vancouver after nearly 20 years away, the first half of After the Headrush embodies the nostalgia that In Standard Definition questioned as much as it celebrated. "Until the Sun Comes Up" is a fiendishly catchy dose of nonstop hedonism with a witty viewpoint and nagging hooks worthy of Sparks, while "Run Away" is a vocal harmony and brass-laden tribute to the virtues of the three-minute pop song. This being an Art d'Ecco album, however, nothing is quite as simple as it seems, and he deconstructs Headrush's facade on its second half. The contrast between the Bowie and Roxy Music-fueled revelry of "Was a Teenager" and the machine-tooled Cars homage "Midlife Crisis" illustrates just how clever -- and surprisingly poignant -- d'Ecco's music can be. Though the escapism gets a little more desperate on "Sad Light Disco," the record's comedown isn't crushing; in fact, the title track closes the set on an oddly triumphant note, and suggests that d'Ecco has a Bobby Conn-like knack for intertwining majesty and defeat. Despite all of the album's pomp, d'Ecco's message is subtler on After the Headrush than it was on In Standard Definition. However, his ability to craft songs that sound like hits from an alternate dimension remains obvious.

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