Empire of the Sun

Two Vines

(Virgin EMI)

Australian duo Empire of the Sun are known for their outlandish imagery. Live shows feature dancers dressed as swordfish. Fans call themselves “Empyrean pilgrims”.

For their last album Ice on the Dune, vocalist Luke Steele was known as the “emperor” while his producer-colleague Nick Littlemore became the “prophet”. They wear sparkling headdresses and face paints, like votaries at a psychedelic ritual.

A possible source for all this far-out behaviour comes when Steele sings “Alice D you’re on your way up” on their new album — a drug reference that makes “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” seem as cryptic as the Enigma code. And here we encounter the truly odd thing about our pair of cosmic adventurers: their banality.

Two Vines dials down the garish EDM of its predecessor in favour of soft-rock and pop so slick that a guest appearance of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham at the end has the inevitability of a contractual necessity. Steele’s voice is washed-out and feeble, songs flutter by blandly, dance beats ripple into view like gentle hills in an otherwise tediously unvarying landscape. It is as far-out as a deep, dreamless sleep.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

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