HMLTD – West of Eden (2 stars)

This article is from 2020

HMLTD: West of Eden

Lofty, genre-spanning ambitions miss their mark on the band's long-awaited debut

Hailed for several years as 'ones to watch', London quintet HMLTD have finally released their debut album. West of Eden is a glam odyssey that attempts to explore multiple genres whilst never veering too far from the band's self-consciously 'epic' style. Bursting onto the scene in 2015, HMLTD (originally called Happy Meals Ltd, before the McDonalds lawyers came calling) quickly turned heads with their dynamic live shows and snappy dress sense. The early buzz led to a contract with Sony, which seemed to fall apart quicker than it took to come together as the group left an aborted album and joined indie label Lucky Number.

West of Eden is an album of big ideas and even larger ambitions (as hinted by its Steinbeck-referencing title). Album opener 'The West Is Dead' outlines this, as slick guitars and driving synths underpin proclamations from lead singer Spychalski (real name Henry Chisholm) that 'Three years ago I said / The West is dying right underneath my nose / And I'll be so glad when it finally goes.' It introduces a band searching for something important to say, but in looking so hard merely loses all its vitality. Unfortunately, this tone is carried throughout the album.

Nonetheless, the musicality on display can be impressive, and the talent to segue from early 2000s indie to sweeping 1980s New Romanticism and on to EDM in a single four-minute song is not to be dismissed. Largely, the commitment to pursue ideas to extremes leads to the album's best and worst attributes. Throwback ballad 'Mikey's Song' stands out for its commitment to a relatively simple notion, whereas glam-rock stomper 'Blank Slate' aims for an anthemic target (somewhere between Soft Cell and Arcade Fire) and misses magnificently.

This seems to be music engineered for festivals, a series of novelty numbers that could easily be enhanced by a confetti cannon here or there. Perhaps in that environment HMLTD could really work. However, listening to the album on its own means that the endless barrage of pseudo-intellectual catharsis quickly becomes meaningless and exhausting.

Out Fri 7 Feb on Lucky Number.

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