Hercules and Love Affair - The Feast of the Broken Heart (2 stars)

Rump of New York electro-dance collective's third record sounds unexpectedly like trendy background music

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Hercules and Love Affair - The Feast of the Broken Heart

(Moshi Moshi)

‘Fiery, rough, tough and ragged old-school house,’ is how Hercules and Love Affair fulcrum Andy Butler surmises this New York electro-dance collective’s approach to making their third album. He sounds in combative mood following 2011’s Blue Songs struggle to capitalise on the breakout made by their striking DFA Records-released self-titled 2008 debut, as led by the deliriously good Antony Hegarty-sung ‘Blind’.

Your appreciation of The Feast of the Broken Heart may hinge on just how rough you like it. Very measured early 90s-flavoured disco-house jams in a minor key, warbled pseudo-soulfully by a rotating cast of diva-ish guest vocalists of indeterminate gender over acidy beats and squelchy basslines will present an enjoyably risqué proposition to some. But a lot of this record feels like retro dance music for the soft touch.

Brought in to ‘do a Hegarty’ here, so to speak, is ex-Czars frontman turned Brit Award-nominated soloist John Grant, whose venture into electronica on the exceptional Pale Green Ghosts LP and talent for turning sordid biography into sublime music makes him a natural fit on an album promising vintage dancefloor debauchery. The two tracks to which Grant contributes – ‘I Try To Talk To You’ (‘I take away your pain and I take away the stain,’ he sings sinfully in a breathy tenor over stuttering synths, shiny piano and swooping strings), and trippy techno banger ‘Liberty’ – are the two standouts here, albeit among tame company.

‘My Offence’ is Hot Chip-esque robo dance-pop, but without that delicious nerds-at-a-rave dichotomy that makes Hot Chip so lovable (‘Are you talking to me?’ croons American soulster Krystle Warren, with rote face-palming disco sass). The polite techno of ‘Do You Feel The Same?’ sees Belgian singer Gustaph’s looped vocal wearyingly beg the track’s titular question over and over again. ‘The Key’, featuring Rouge Mary, marries wobbly synth modulation, muted trumpet and soothing chords to woozy lounge-y effect. For an album that purports to be all about getting up in your grill, the rump of this record sounds unexpectedly like trendy background music.

'Do You Feel the Same?' - Hercules & Love Affair

'I Try To Talk To You' feat. John Grant - Hercules & Love Affair

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