Theme Park’s self-titled debut album offers up an album of catchy pop hits, lovely artsy pieces, and absolute filler fuzz. It is about as coherent as a drunk Bane. When albums like this get released there are inevitably a few reasons that are normally to blame...
1-The bloody ‘man’
If you’re in a band and people start grumbling about the fact that your new direction doesn’t suit their apparently cardinal requirements, or that one of the songs on your album 'doesn't have enough integrity', history has provided you with one pretty solid party to blame: “The fucking label, man.” Now, Transgressive Records are hardly in the league of big ol’ mass corporate labels, but they do have to make money, they want singles. Theme Park’s album contains a number of surefire 'hits', including the sweet poppiness of the already released ‘Jamaica’ - inoffensive, catchy - the exact sort of track that will make a pleasing, if small, dent on the playlist of XFM. But then if you listen to other tracks such as the ineffectually eerie ‘Saccades - Lines we Delay’ (which sounds like an Errors track if played using only the music of Crash Bandacoot) and it almost feels like the label could have thrown it in with the sticky note: “okay, but you’re only allowed this one if you give us another ‘Jamaica’”, which the band did. In fact it probably gave them about five.
2-They had too much time/ they had too little time
Debut albums often fall into one of these apparently conflicting camps. If bands have chewed on their tracks for too long, often songs which seemed great when they were fighting in their school’s Battle of the Bands are suddenly playing out of my speakers like a heap of teenagerhood that all sounds very, very dated. You end up with an album comprising of every style they have ever liked, a hybrid moppy mess that doesn’t quite know where it is. Arguably Theme Park, despite only being around for about two years, have some songs which just sound very 'young' whilst others such as the catchy ‘Two Years’ fits into that modern Jake Bugg style, that will appeal to teenagers but not sound like them. Yet obviously by only being around for such a short time, you could argue that albums sometimes end up being a rush job borne of hype-happy labels. The second half of the album definitely feels like this, mostly filled with fillers, and the last three songs ‘Still Life’, ‘Los Chikas’, and ‘ Blind’ are about as imaginative as the album name.
3-The band hate each other
With two brothers and a primary school friend, this seems unlikely, but it would be foolish to ignore this Grade-A reason for bands’ multiple directions often ending up with no direction at all. And it is worth bearing in mind that these younglings are going through that tender period of life where you end up going from an arsehole, to a super arsehole. Bands often try and make compromises, “hey I love Janis Joplin and you love Scooter, but I have a feeling we can build something here!" You can’t, it would sound like a terminally ill robot. These lot seem too nice, and look like they couldn’t win an arm wrestle against a dressing gown, but hey, it's a possibility.
4-"You know how I feel about pop music!" "Yes...confused"
Theme Park are in essence a pop band, and to their credit they have the grace to admit this, but that being said no one wants to put their foot firmly in that campest camp littered with N*Sync lyrics, denim fedoras and sequin hotpants. Even in terms of indie pop, these boys are in the lightweight category, all politeness and light, but still want to cling to those indie credentials which make them ever so slightly cooler. At times it feels like they throw a guitar bit in just to remind people of this fact, but at other times they offer up tracks, such as the next single 'Tonight' which hipster shirts and pretensions to Talking Heads aside, essentially sounds like a diluted Swedish House Mafia.
5-Everyone wants to be Alt-J
When I first heard the single ‘Jamaica’ last August, it was just a shade before the world went loopy for clever indie tracks that are all intelligent and that. As atmospheric synth tendrils wrapped their way around music’s fickle ears, it is noticeable that some of the efforts on this album - such as the plinky plonky ‘A Place They’ll Never Know’ - sound like an affable but second rate version of the genre. However it doesn’t really sit with their style, and although I like ‘A Place They’ll Never Know’ they’re not going to win a Mercury for this album. This is one for fans of ‘Dog is Dead’s ‘ Glockenspiel Song’, not Alt-J’s glockenspiel solos.
'Theme Park' is released on 25th February, through Transgressive Records