Anyone who’s caught one of the annual Radio City Christmas Spectaculars knows that the show is an aural-occular overload of flashing lights, blasting brass, diverse musical numbers, and high-kicking dancers. Sure, there are moments when the spectacle becomes almost too much—perhaps when the audience dons 3D glasses to take a virtual sleigh ride with Santa—but if you’ve got a taste for the tacky and a stomach for the saccharine, it’s a lot of fun.
Pepe Deluxé‘s Queen of the Wave is a similar beast. The Nordic duo take pride in not limiting themselves to a single genre, instead jumping between a handful of styles not only from song to song, but many times within each track. “Go Supersonic” barrels forward like a Danny Elfman-scored Disney soundtrack by way of a mod girl group from 1960s Tokyo. “Contain Thyself” sees female troubadours on a folky Celtic romp. “Riders of the First Ark” is likely the most melancholy song dealing with unicorns that you’ll ever hear. This shit is cray, and I mean that less in the ball-so-hard sense than in an institutional one.
Official word pegs this as a concept album, having something to do with a metaphysical manuscript, reincarnation, Atlantis, and the planet Venus. It’s convoluted enough to make Wayne Coyne’s plotting seem almost Hemingway-esque, but that doesn’t stop it from being incredibly entertaining. Yeah, it’s garish, but it’s also gaudy, loud, and primarily fun. As tightly composed as each number sounds, there’s a looseness and lightheartedness that’s cheekily infectious, a freedom to just go nuts that more musicians would do well to try.
Besides, what’s not to love about an album that sounds like a space opera one moment and the theme song for a low-budget quiz show the next?
Essential Songs: “Go Supersonic”, “Contain Thyself”