The state of dance music isn't looking pretty. While the rise of any underground sub-genre is rewarding for the artists, producers and labels who toiled away for so long without recognition, with it comes some ugliness. Call it the negative impact of EDM, the phase where house became "fashionable", or simply just the way things are in the internet-age, the net result is that the dancefloor has lost its edge. And so it's high time then that DJ and producer Andy Butler reunited the Hercules & Love Affair for their third LP The Feast Of The Broken Heart, to inject their unique blend of acid funk back into the scene's bloodstream.
Right from the off, it's clear that Butler & co. mean business. Album opener "Hercules Theme 2014" kicks into life with aggressive acid basslines, industrial drums and the kind of uplifting vocals that have become synonymous with the group. "That's Not Me" is an acid-tongued ode to post-relationship independence, while recent single "Do You Feel The Same" is enough to make anybody skulk on into their nearest club, with a groove and hook bringing back the soul that has been so missed from recent disco efforts of their contemporaries.
Sonically, it's clear just what Butler has been busying himself with since the Affair's last effort, 2011's Blue Songs. Back is the familiar groovebox and drum machine sound that made Hercules & Love Affair such a refreshing throwback, but added are experimentations with sci-fi sounds ("I Try To Talk To You"), chilled breakbeat (album closer "The Key"), without forgetting Haçienda-esque techno-wig-outs ("5.43 To Freedom"). Whether experienced under strobe lights or in an armchair with headphones on, there is certainly enough here to keep anyone entertained.
Of course, any musical backing is only as good as what you make with it, which is where The Feast... begins to slightly unravel. Following his Meltdown 2012 performance with the group (in which he publicly revealed being HIV-positive) and a flurry of hype on the back of his solo efforts, the spotlight becomes firmly fixed on John Grant to bring an emotional weight to the record. "I Try To Talk To You" aims for both disco-stomper and ballad, but unfortunately, falls short of both. "My Offence" showcases Krystle Warren championing female equality, but the message isn't given enough seriousness from the music to make it stick. All is not lost, however: the return of Grant on "Liberty" sees a raw and ragged vocal performance that really should have been given more focus.
The Feast Of The Broken Heart is not the best dance record you'll hear this year, nor is it enough to break the chain of dreary piano, beats and sax numbers shooting up the UK charts. However, a bad collection of songs it is not; The Feast succeeds in pulling in elements from across the musical spectrum and presenting some solid collaborations, delivering it with the camp pomp and fun that you’d expect from Butler. The love affair continues.
The Feast Of The Broken Heart is released 26th May. You can get it here