The Golden Echo
There are some great moments on Kimbra’s second album, really great – unfortunately they’re ruined by the busy, buzzy, fizzy, frenetic feel and the often absurd splatter-paint pop music effect that she’s clearly going for; better, she seems to think, to suggest herself as pop music’s great tourist with a full passport rather than settling down somewhere to make an honest – earnest – living.
The problems start with early single, 90s Music. It’s as if an old Janet Jackson track was carjacked by M.I.A. And there’s Kimbra in the passenger seat smiling politely, jotting down (dumb) ideas.
Those silly comparisons to Prince never deserved to gain anything resembling traction but where there is a connection – almost – is in hearing several of the songs on The Golden Echo grasping at something of the sound of Sheila E’s albums that Prince wrote and produced. But where Prince knew when and how to hold back and Sheila E knew she was playing a role Kimbra is all in – that canvas clogged with ideas, a tease of guitar here, the swirl of Paisley Park’s mid-80s purple psychedelic pop there – but you can’t shake the feeling that Kimbra’s too busy running. And yet though her feet hardly ever hit the ground.
Nearly every song contains an album’s worth of ideas and it’s too much – far too much; it’s exhausting and ridiculous and it feels like the scrapbook of mind-maps from a precocious child dining out on the thrill of it all – over-egging everything.
Carolina and Goldmine and Miracle are three quite exceptional pieces of pop music. And all in a row – but it’s impossible to feel anything from them. They’re too busy. It’s as if the champagne may taste very nice indeed but we’re only ever going to get a trace amount as Kimbra keeps shaking up the bottle, so desperate to party.
Really this album should have been called My Wonderful Gold Lume Fizzing Hyperreality – as with Kanye’s Dark Twisted Fantasy there will be people lining up to tell you that this is the bold reimagining of pop music. But it’s not. It’s just a sugar-rush and a box of crayons and too much carbonated soda and a maddening loop of cartoon silliness – and then it’s also built from ideas stolen, so obviously, from M.I.A. and Janelle Monae, and Michael and Janet Jackson and Sheila E. and though I’d still like to tell you that one day Kimbra might make an album worth listening to this is just an endurance test. Some slick-as-fuck playing here, some sinewy, delicious grooves and that immaculate sheen.
And it should work. But it can’t. Because not only can you not believe (in) it you’re never sure at all – there’s no proof, not even a glimpse, no way – that Kimbra believes it. And yet she’s doing that mad – and then maddening – whirling-dervish dance through plastic funk and pop-ballad-show-tune hybrids and you want her to just slow down. To stop. To take a fucking listen to this madness. And halve the ideas that were lined up for each and every song here. And breathe some actual life into this.
There’s too much performance. And not an ounce of soul.
Unbelievable the fans will say.
Well, unbelievable is a very good word here. It works just as well for detractors of the album too.