The Weeknd: Dawn FM (4 stars)

The Weeknd: Dawn FM

The Weeknd keeps his Dawn FM listeners dancing in the dark

Abel Tesfaye stirs up pop earworm and sinister musings alongside a handpicked galaxy of music and film stars

While the notion of a 'concept album' might be entrenched in the more unfortunate corners of 1970s/80s pomp(ous) art-rock, Abel Tesfaye has attempted to bring it dragging and autotuning into the 21st century. Dawn FM offers up nothing less than the soundtrack to purgatory, with fellow Ontarian Jim Carrey as a heavenly radio-station gatekeeper, urging listeners not to worry as they drift towards the afterlife. Unsurprisingly, such reassurances prove null and void as The Weeknd sings about trauma and regret, bringing along luminaries such as Lil Wayne and Tyler, The Creator for a truly dark ride.

If the description of Dawn FM might lead listeners to get ready for a dramatic career shift, Tesfaye halts that thinking in its tracks, being a strident purveyor of the 'if it largely ain't broke' ethos. His trademark R&B/soul/Hi-NRG hybrid is dialled up to max plus, and while there may not be anything on here that matches the all-time Billboard-topping triumph of 'Blinding Lights', the throbbing 'Take My Breath' and the thrusting 'How Do I Make You Love Me?' do their earworm best.

Dawn FM's straight-down-the-line floor packers are broken up by Carrey's atypically measured musings, some spoof ads, and Quincy Jones delivering a curse-speckled speech about parenting, relationships and dementia. Lyrically, the album is filled with bruised negativity and overwhelming darkness (check out complete downer 'Out Of Time'), despite its mainly jaunty rhythms and sparkly melodies. On 'Gasoline', we are treated to imagery of self-immolation while there's a track actually called 'Every Angel Is Terrifying'.

While The Weeknd seems unlikely to replicate the chameleon-esque properties of Bowie or Madonna or even Taylor, his steady-as-you-go approach still ekes out perfect, shiny pop dancing fleet of foot atop a slippery, sinister undertow that is never less than compelling. Dawn FM might well be the ultimate balancing act.

The Weeknd: Dawn FM is out now on XO/Republic Records.