Helen Love

Day-Glo Dreams

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Since 1992, Helen Love have been happily cranking out punk-pop ditties about punk boys, bubblegum, crushes, tough girls, and, above all, Joey Ramone, on cheap synthesizers and tinny guitars. There have been little tweaks here and there as influences come and go (happy hardcore on Love and Glitter, Hot Days and Muzik, tons of vocoder on It's My Club and I'll Play What I Want To), but at heart the band stayed true to its obsessions over the course of countless singles and three albums. Released in 2013, Day-Glo Dreams represents something of a sea change for Helen Love, as there have been pretty drastic changes to both their sound and to the content of the band's lyrics. This time out, all references to the '70s and punk have been replaced by nods to the Human League and synth pop, the lighthearted lyrics are more often than not tinged with melancholy, and the cheapo synths seem to have been replaced by slightly less cheapo synths. Not that the band is any less cheesy -- there are plenty of silly sound effects, corny drum sounds, and even synth strings on a couple tracks! But the most important things haven't changed: Helen Love's perfectly sweet vocals and her ability to write simple, candy pop melodies that will be stuck in your head for ages. Slightly more pro-sounding musical backing can't do much to ruin that, and to be honest, it was time for a change. Writing silly sweet odes to Joey Ramone and celebrating punk boys/girls will only last you about 20 years or so. A little bit of real emotion (as displayed on the very sad "Our Mum and Dad" or the tenderly nostalgic "You and Stacy") was overdue, as was some reality -- it's interesting that the songs seem more nostalgic about the time and place where Helen Love actually grew up ('80s Wales) instead of where she wishes she did ('70 N.Y.C.). If all this talk about improved sound and thoughtful lyrics is getting you worried, there are still plenty of goofy pop songs like "We Are All the Lo-Fi Kids" and "My Imagination" to remind you of the classic Helen Love and help get you past the shock of hearing Love sing about Michael Jackson instead of Joey Ramone, name-check Culture Club, and reimagine a-ha on the album's best song, "Atomic," but it's all played and sung with enough energy and good cheer that it's hard to resist getting on board with the adjustments the band's made to its sound.

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