Minds typically go to dark, severe places when describing Lust for Youth: the blackest winters of Hannes Norrvide’s native Sweden, mental and physical prisons, Joy Division songs. So when a Lust for Youth song is built on Norrvide singing “this time he crossed the line” with typical, Teutonic austerity, you figure it's not going to end well for whoever he's talking about. And you’d be right—the song's about disgraced Tour de France champion and lawsuit magnet Lance Armstrong (“He spins the wheels down Champs-Élysées to acquire his seventh title for his people to admire”) and takes its title (“Epoetin Alfa”) from a drug frequently abused in the cycling world. But little else about International’s shimmering opening track resembles Norrvide’s past work, allowing you to hear that lyric in a meta sense. Lightness, melody, quality production, collaboration —these were forbidden zones on Perfect View and Growing Seeds, and on International, Norrvide is stepping over boundaries with no plans to go back.
If the word “international” instantly triggers a word association with “jet set”, you’re on the same wavelength as Norrvide here. It’s enough of a surprise that a guest spot from Iceage’s Elias Bender Rønnenfelt on “Epoetin Alfa” results in plangent, pinging guitars more reminiscent of Studio than his own band; the subsequent “Illume” confirms Norrvide’s alignment with Scandinavians fascinated by tropical locales, but he does so without the signifiers. “New Boys” and “Running” conjure the buoyancy of Air France and Tough Alliance without the birdcall and bongos, or the subversive playacting.
Norrvide isn’t quite ready to cross the line into the 1990s, though—his ideas of pop are strictly filtered through post-punk, so International is more a logical step forward from his no-fi previous recordings than a giant leap. Incorporating live member Loke Rahbek and producer Malthe Fischer, Lust for Youth are a trio now, and the arrangements of International are at least three times as sophisticated and accomplished; what were previously one or two-note synth figures are now one-bar riffs and full chords.
The crystalline, retro-futurist synths and spotless production could allow for comparisons to Depeche Mode, Human League, and Pet Shop Boys, but that’s if we’re being generous. Norrvide’s not really a lyricist or a personality; he's more of a moaner than a crooner, one who traces the longing melodic lines and placeholder verbiage typical of Bernard Sumner. Though the sound’s more open and inviting, Lust for Youth still remain a mostly unknowable act—the chorused guitars of waltz-timed ballad “After Touch” bear more than a passing resemblance to Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” and render Norrvide’s stiff vocals an afterthought. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the highlight of International is “Armida”, when Norrvide passes the mic to Danish electro-pop singer Soho Rezanejad; it’s still a Lust for Youth song in that it’s centered around the idea of control, but Rezanejad can sing about losing it, letting go, and moving her feet in a way that would be unconvincing had Norrvide said the same things.
And even if the cold storage atmosphere no longer defines Lust for Youth, Norrvide’s still got his defense mechanisms. “Ultras” and “Basorexia” are perfectly serviceable instrumentals, but they don’t function as interstitials—they just kill whatever momentum Lust for Youth attain with their pop songs, to say nothing of the five-minute spoken-word cut “Lungomare”. Rather than lending International depth, it shrinks the album into an admittedly accurate recapture of top-heavy, single-centered records of Norrvide’s preferred influences. Still, International is Lust for Youth’s third full-length in just two years, so it isn’t likely to be an endpoint, but an indication that they might truly cross the line into pure pop at some point—just, not yet.
Premiere: White Hex's New Video 'Paradise'
Paradise features on White Hex's new LP, Gold Nights. Out now, locally via it Records and internationally via Felte. and The Collection Of Ricardo
Idyllic beach island scenes, quiet Sunday sleep-ins or maybe just a well-executed, ol' fashioned break-and-enter-and-dinner-date sadistic roleplay scenario. A fitting — and brilliantly shot — cinematic companion for the dramatic, synth-led new single from the Melbourne darkwave duo. -.GREAT COLLECTION