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M83 - Before the Dawn Heals Us

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Artist: M83

Album: Before the Dawn Heals Us

Label: Mute

Review date: Feb. 13, 2005

Have you ever fallen asleep during the X-Files’ opening credits, then awoken to a Volkswagen commercial? Have you ever wanted to?

Guitars and synths snarl, gurgle and moan ’til one doesn’t distinguish itself from the other. (Due to a much-ballyhooed lineup shuffle) apparitional vocals float sideways through the middle of the mix, sighing disposable magnetic poetry. Whoever stands under the M83 umbrella, they keep one foot in non-representational digi-trash and the other in shameless ’70s glam. It’s pretentious, it’s portentous, it’s a good time for your goldfish, in the bowl that sits on the speaker. At any volume, it’s as loud as god, but you might want to crank it if you want to drown out the bullshit detector.

Know this, ye who plan to bliss out to Before the Dawn Heals Us: You’re going to need to like… fuck that, love… a song called “Moon Child.” That’s the shapeshifting torrent that commences the disc, and it chronicles some kid’s auditory hallucinations. (“Raise your arms to the big black sky / Raise your arms the highest you can / So the whole universe will glow… I realized I was in love with the voice.”) If you can’t devine the divinity therein, you’re out of luck. For you, there’s Ghostly International.

The soup gets thinner after that. “Don’t Save Us From the Flames,” its eew-gross lyric aside (“A piece of brain in my hair / The wheels are melting / A ghost is screaming my name”) showcases M83 at its tease-grip-release finest. It’d sound great in an SUV. Har, har, har. Really, it would.

The most beautiful, most emotionally strenuous passage is “Farewell/Goodbye,” a ballad. Between its anguished childishness (“Tears on your neck / Holding you near / Sparkling shells / Three comet tails”) and cascading melody, it feels like getting dumped in a cathedral.

All that transpires within the album’s first half-hour, and it gets exponentially less memorable as it travels on. Ain’t bad, though, for what it is: an electro-pop starter kit. It’s about time the younger siblings of Radiohead nerds had their own grandiose dorm rock, something to score self-conscious monkeyshines better recalled than experienced, and this’ll serve.

By Emerson Dameron

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