On Bob Dylan’s less-than-seminal 1973 misstep Self–Portrait, Rolling Stone’s Greil Marcus had this to say: “what is this shit?” Unfortunately for you and me, there’s a minimum word-count here at PearShaped. So allow me to elucidate:
Busted, a 2000s pop rock trio from Southend-on-Sea. Hits included: Year 3000, What I Go To School For, Crashed The Wedding, the theme song for the crappy Thunderbirds reboot, etc.. This band began a wave of British kiddy-rock: McFly, Son Of Dork, Scouting For Girls – those bands owe Busted everything. I still remember the earth-shattering BBC Newsround report that came out when they disbanded. It was the end of our tiny little worlds, wasn’t it? Well, that’s we thought at the time. Those of you lucky enough to have survived a schooling system fondled by both Tony Blair and Michael Gove, here you are. 20-or-so and standing on the brink of the frankly unbelievable; Busted’s reunion record.
Hold your breath, guys. It’s a long way down. Go on. Press play. I dare ya. Chances are, disillusioned little millennial, you’ll know this flavour well. Spoiler: it’s disappointment.
I won’t waste too much of your precious time here. In a month that’s given us Soulwax’s Transient Program for Drums and Machines, Charly Bliss’ Turd and Emily Reo’s Spell, there’s no sense suggesting that good contemporary music is dead. The situation isn’t quite that dire. But, Jesus, this record is bad. From its fat, electronic start to its fat, electronic end, Night Driver is pretentious bollocks and, worse still, derivative. It’s so utterly vile in fact, that it makes the thing it’s imitating look not bad by comparison.
I’m talking, of course, about The 1975, whose tactless combination of Chic-copyism and elevator-muzak synthesiser programming got everyone talking earlier this year. Frontman and representative-of-God-on Earth, Matt Healy, channelled a sluice of wet cheese through the band’s sophomore egestus, entitled I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It. This floppy-cocked, 74 minute aural oil-spill has revitalised 80s aesthetics. Some have heretically referred to it as synth-pop while others have dared bring back the term new wave. I don’t know what to call it. All I know is that it’s been massively popular. To the point that other bands have copied The 1975 to the ‘t’ – which doesn’t just mean they’ve produced bland records with washed-out neon all over them and PWL slap-synths straight off a Yamaha DX-7. Invariably, they’ve destroyed their identities in the process. Two Door Cinema Club are the main offenders; but that rogues gallery now includes Busted.
Worse still, Busted aren’t blameless. Two Door emerged from a hiatus period of tension, drug and alcohol abuse and obscurity with their duff comeback LP; they can at least be excused as victims of circumstance. Busted have this similar re-birth shtick going on, but it doesn’t wash – their entire sound is gone. Nothing on this record sounds anything like the band you know. I’m one for change, don’t get me wrong, but this is cutting your nose off to spite your face, only to realise that in the ham-fisted attempt at cutting off your nose you accidentally sliced your entire fucking head off. You might be thinking, woah Nelly – no need for the cusswords! You’re damn right – that’s just what I thought when no less than 1:10 into this LP, Busted dropped the F bomb, about 30 seconds after a totally unnecessary “shitty”. It’s not skater-y; it’s not punky – it’s crass sleaze, and the music sounds exactly like the sort of protracted excuse Matt Healy uses for his own appalling lyrics. “Walked past the Taj Mahal / it’s so fucking beautiful” – necessary? No.
Elsewhere, the overriding problem with Night Driver is its innate desire to bore. The melodies are flat; the instrumentation is fake; the entire thing feels awkward. For the entire runtime, something – everything – is amiss. The songs suffer most when they’re trying hard – On What You’re On is super duper naff but somewhere, under the swathes of sub-Grooverider disco imitation, it’s determined to be catchy, despite consistently dreadful lyrics (“she’s optimistic ‘bout the state of her planet”…?).
I’m going to stop here, if you don’t mind.
I honestly cannot recommend a single part of this album. It’s gross. Really. I shudder to think what band will fall next in pursuit of this plastic trend. Christ, it’s as if the Drive soundtrack reproduced through in-breeding.
The worst thing about all of this, is my own naïve optimism. I had dibs on this review way back in May – I heard the album opener, Coming Home, and I thought, you know what: the swearwords suck, but that’s some nice electronic production there. Maybe, just maybe, Busted can pull off the whole dance music thing. I’ve come back to it now and things have changed. Now that anyone who ever had any artistic integrity or originality is sucking the diseased, major-label teats of the late-eighties revivalism, I take back everything I said.
This album is trite garbage. If I’d been allowed, I’d have quoted Greil Marcus and said no more. As it stands, I’ve managed to get away with not mentioning that much by name. Honestly, if you’re morbidly curious, sit down with this and see how far you get. Otherwise, there’s a world of better things for you to hear.