Subtly-subverted pop is where they’re at their best
Label: Recreation Records
Released: 5th May 2017
Remember the heady days of 2011? It was then that Theme Park first opened for business, the laid-back cool of ‘Wax’ marking them out as something a little more luxe than your average guitar outfit.
Six years on from their debut and not much has changed, which is, unfortunately, the downfall of ‘Is This How It Starts?’. While perky poolside indie is still very much the order of the day, Miles Haughton’s silky vocals remain overwhelmed by the excessive production and sterile lyrics that plagued their first record. For every ‘You Are Real’ an undeniable shoulder-shimmy as slick as anything they’ve ever made, there is an ‘LA Is Stealing My Friends’, which really doesn’t benefit from its everything-and-then-some-extra-percussion approach.
Subtly-subverted pop is where they’re at their best – the squelchy rhythm of ‘Something Good’ feels fun and modern, while ‘I’ll Do Anything’ tells a charming tale of awe in a new relationship over a melody that recalls the glory days of Phoenix.
Occasionally, though, their genre-hopping quest for a rump-shaker goes a little too far – ‘Xbox’ belongs firmly in the early 00’s club scene and ‘Cocoon’’s spacey R&B plod feels clichéd, a mid-set dampener that doesn’t suit them at all.
A distinctly mixed bag of a record, ‘Is This How It Starts?’ provides plenty to enjoy but relatively little to take to your heart. Until Theme Park really figure out who they want to be, they’re at risk of trying just that little bit too hard. With contemporaries Bombay Bicycle Club and Friendly Fires on hiatus and synth-pop reigning king, their unfocused approach feels just that little bit too late to the party. Jenessa Williams