A murky guitar riff fades into the air space and is soon accompanied by a haunting synth line and a accentuating drum comp. Air at its most viscerally eerie eventually falls back into the fluffy cloud on which the French duo invited its listeners over the last 12 years. The sparse piano inclusion offers their slink cocktail lounge flair and a hint of their unavoidable trademark sound. Together with the sly mystique of the band’s equally sparse vocal outings, as they recite “Do The Joy”‘s title words in the chorus, the track makes for a rather expected but not at all boring opener for the band’s fifth studio album Love 2 (if not counting the film score Virgin Suicides).
There’s no doubt that Air will never top the genius brilliance of Moon Safari. To me, Nicolas Godin and Jean-BenoÃ®t Dunckel have ever since that landmark album and the stellar Premiers SymptÃ´mes been two electronic wiz gentlemen slipping out of the next self-indulgent album after the other, over the time building up their own little martini-drenched, alt lounge universe in which the subtly different varieties of music connoisseurs can find a good soundtrack to implement and apply into their own urban yuppie apartment aural background. 10 000 Hz Legend was for those who romanticize of electronic music’s experimental paths into the finer rooms of music art. Talkie Walkie was the duo’s most thorough and successful idea and attempt at luring the culturally aware European trenchcoat faggot to unknowingly swallow his American influences like a well needed medicine and vice versa. Pocket Symphony was, as the title suggests, for the ipod-generation, i.e. those who no matter age were lucky to live in the age when Apple pushed its borders further forward and become a household must-have brand.
Romanticism? It’s synonymous with Air, which leads me to the conclusion that Love 2 (listen to that title again as you say it out loud) is the band’s most uninspired and ironic album to date. The mere thought of upgrading love and being the one to introduce it musically is so much hyperbole that ought to make every contemporary hipster regurgitate Our Love To Admire/Hercules & Love Affair/Bright Like Neon Love to go dust off Loveless as a panicking cure. Hold your horses, not even Air could be that blind to their own image. Love 2 is of course, it better be, a well-aimed and satirizing comment on ridiculously generic and high-flown album titles. However, as an album it’s a proof that the duo is just as in love with doing what they do best.
In fact, they love what they do so much that they let all pretenses of any possible progress in sound fly like a gentle butterfly out the window. Out it goes and Dunkel and Godin are left to dip deep into their own pot, painting a picture of a self-portrait where they’re striking a pose, infatuated by their own reflection. The album offers plenty of variation: the soft-psychedelica of “Be A Bee” feature parodically stereotypical spy movie guitars, the lovely highlight “Heaven’s Light” is a serene travel to the heavens as if straight off Moon Safari, “You Can Tell It To Everybody” could be Air’s answer to “Careless Whisper” with its cheesy sax and relaxing ballad not to mention soft-pop single “Sing Sang Sung”‘s shibuya-kei-stylish lisping, sugar-coated vocals (althoug of course in French accent: “Thing thang thung, thing me that thong“). Even though immaculately produced and arranged, as always, these are all things not too far from what we’ve heard on the other Air albums. Once again in the band’s career, a few songs are memorable but the entirety make up for the most rewarding and charming listen.
To Air’s defense for seemingly carelessly and self-willingly freezing the time, I’ve got to say that the duo does stick to the fantastically nonsensical “theme” of the album and provide mid-to-high class soundtracks for a wide range of occasions. Should only they have killed some of their darlings, rearranging a fewforgettable but not forgivable passages as “Tropical Disease”‘s irritiatingly slow pace and lack of anything tropical in the mix or “Eat My Beat”‘s instrumental filler-rock and made the album more cohesive I might’ve passed the album on as a lovely novelty pastiche of something as crucial and plain as love. But in 2009, even Air is bleeping to weakly on the radar and Love 2 is to blame for it. Yet again, it’s hard to hate on Air. It’s hard to hate on a band that has the guts to go against the flow and freeze or even go back in time when so many bands rush past in a rampaging pursuit of progression, development and innovation, not least in electronic music.
It’s hence a bit easier to admire Air for its stubbornness, but also for the joyous moments that inspires love and passion. So I raise my glass of chardonnay to the French pop-snobs in spotless suits and salute them for their sophistication: Cheers, chaps!