Oppenheimer Drop Perfect Pop
Francis Jones rates the debut album from the Belfast electro wonderkids
WATCH the video for Oppenheimer's 'Breakfast in NYC'
From their unofficial, live debut at the Crescent Arts Centre back in 2004 through to last month’s debut album launch at The Empire and countless appearances in-between, Oppenheimer have grown into one of our most treasured, magnificently unconventional bands.
Regular appearances on the local live circuit have resulted in an eponymous first release which sounds like an Oppenheimer ‘Best-Of’ rather than their debut record. And in many respects ‘Best-Of’ is a perfectly adequate description for an album crammed full of beloved favourites, not a single track failing to ascend to the stratospheric musical heights we‘ve come to expect of Oppenheimer.
Whimsical and full of giddy enchantments, ‘Oppenheimer’ is an astute distillation of this band’s oeuvre, intricately structured indie-electronica which carries the requisite emotional punch to pierce even the most stoic of hearts.
Themes of love and loss prevail, but Oppenheimer eschew schmaltz and condescension to bring a quirkiness and sense of intimacy to their subject matter, ‘When I Close My Eyes I Fall In Love’ or ‘This Kiss When’ that imbues the music with a startling honesty.
Of course, this being Oppenheimer, nothing is ever quite as it seems, there’s symbolism and stream of consciousness lyricism ‘Breakfast In NYC’ and sometimes it’s just downright bizarre, note the superbly offbeat, Beat parable, ‘Allen Died, April Five’. But, no matter the theme, the sounds remain inventive and invigorating, Oppenheimer refusing to conform to stolid convention.
The production is faultless, primacy given to the abundant melodic hooks that are the backbone of the Oppenheimer sound on songs such as ‘This Is A Test’ and ‘Saturday Looks Bad To Me’. There is an exquisite version of Tom McShane’s ‘Don’t Call Me’ and a link up with Ash man Tim Wheeler for ‘Orchid’.
However, despite the aforementioned delights, it is the marvellous ‘My Son, The Astronaut’ that represents the album’s finest moment. The ethereal vocal of Shaun Robinson, the precise playing of Rocky O’Reilly and the sweet synthesis of guitar and beatific keyboard beats, provide for a bliss inducing, aural intoxicant. ‘Oppenheimer’ is a bold, resonant record from a band that are, quite simply, the bomb.