James Righton

The Performer

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The debut solo effort from the Klaxons co-founder, The Performer sees James Righton distilling the neon dance-rock of his flagship band into a mostly tasty hybrid of velvety Todd Rundgren-meets Bryan Ferry retro-pop and California-kissed '70s soft rock with neo-psych underpinnings. More in line with Righton's 2017's outing under the Shock Machine moniker, The Performer, despite its affectations, feels like a more authentic rendering of Righton as a songwriter. Commencing with the strident title cut, a propulsive pastiche of Foreigner's "Cold as Ice" and Strange Days-era Doors, the nine-song set is an assured, if sometimes meandering rumination on the dichotomy between pop stardom and fatherhood. The affirming "Edie," written for Righton's daughter, benefits from a laid-back groove and a net of warm disco strings, as does the darker hued "See the Monster," which pulls out the underrated vibraslap from its arsenal of '70s ephemera: warbly Fender Rhodes piano and flashes of Lee Hazlewood-esque psych-folk run through the languid, two-part "Lessons in Dreamland." The sensuous late-night half-banger "Devil Is Loose," with its sinister walking bassline and cascading reverb, definitely shows its Klaxons DNA, but, like the rest of the album, it manages to keep its less savory elements in check. The Performer can get a bit bogged down in its own stylistic chicanery, but Righton is transitioning from rocker to crooner in real time, and it's the tension between the two aesthetics that keeps the listener's attention.

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