A favorite of the indie-pop scene (including mine), Work Drugs have touched nearly every pop genre and era in their short career. They’ve reinterpreted the lush pop of the ’70s, such as with “Predictable Miracles”, to creating melodic, surf-pop of the West Coast, which was evidenced by their most successful single to date, “West Coast Slide”. On their latest album, Louisa, Work Drugs have taken aim at ’80s pop music, which is arguably one of the most polarizing eras and genres in music history. But they haven’t just attempted to recapture the sound of that time; they’ve also created songs that could be considered to be prequels, sequels, or extensions to some of the biggest songs of that era.
The album’s opening song and lead track, “Billie Jean”, isn’t quite like the insanely popular song of the same name, as the Philadelphia-based duo’s approach is more summery, romantic pop. The song, however, speaks of falling in love with someone who had the same effect as a past lover named Billie Jean. “Nineteen” is a coming-of-age song that could would be prime on a sequel to iconic pop-culture films Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Sixteen Candles.
“Minor Flaws” is a brilliantly conceived pop track. While it retains the melodic-pop orientation of the album’s songs, the melody shift towards the end of the song and slight use of synths and electronic offer a terrific bridge in the spirit of Dev Hynes (a.k.a. Blood Orange). The approach complements the multiple meanings of the song – holding on to a memory of a past loved one, the desire to be accepted, or even one of spirituality (maybe influenced by Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”?)
“Left At Redemption” and “In Dreams” are quintessential ’80s pop-love songs, echoing of Rick Springfield. They might have you imaging videos in technicolor with a young Springfield chasing after his loved one on the streets. “Stars” sees the band channeling Wham!, George Michael’s band before he went solo. And like Wham!’s music, “Stars” is an uptempo, positive song with a swaying melody and catchy chorus. “Chase The Night”, meanwhile, has a similar style to Twin Shadow’s smooth and groovy interpretation of ’80s music.
Louisa is an album that if you lived during the ’80s will have you recalling the splendor of acid-washed jeans, big hair, pink bubblegum, and short shorts. Maybe it will have you recalling some of your favorite songs of the ’80s and the possibilities of those songs being re-written from a different point of view. Or possibly, it will have you rekindling your love affair with a guilty pleasure from the era.
Work Drugs are Thomas Crystal and Benjamin Louisiana. Louisa is out now via Bobby Cahnan Records. Listen to it in its entirety on SoundCloud or purchase it at the band’s online store, Bandcamp, iTunes, and eMusic.
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