20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Lightspeed Champion’s Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You by JohnCassillo

Lightspeed Champion's latest effort shows tremendous musical growth

PREVIEW: VISIT Lightspeed Champion’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 16/20 Watts

Attempting to avoid as much hyperbole as possible, the amount of growth witnessed on Lightspeed Champion‘s Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You is staggering. Just two years removed from debut full-length Falling Off the Lavender Bridge, Lightspeed Champion (aka Dev Hynes) comes to us born anew. Gone are the sloppy arrangements of strings and folk-guitar. Same for the constant peril Hynes always seemed to present himself in. For the first time in his career, Hynes has finally reached out and touched every bit of that untapped potential he’s kept in hiding so long.

To this point in his musical catalogue, Hynes has been known mostly as a crass, profane and broken man. Yes, his musical selections have always been interesting, dating back to his time with dance-punk outfit Test Icicles. But here on Life is Sweet!, he’s locked in to a level we’ve never seen from him before. From the introduction “Dead Head Blues,” those who’ve followed his career will notice a sound layered with depth, with his emotions being conveyed more by the musical arrangements than the lyrics themselves. Though his usual appreciatively hokey delivery does come up at different spots here, for the most part Hynes lets the music tell the story– a stark, yet welcome change.

Never one to stray away from the dramatic, Hynes takes it a step further, employing a more theatrical approach. “Middle of the Dark” allows his soaring vocals to guide a story amidst the building pomp of an all-male chorus, and extensive soloing. While “Faculty of Tears” takes on a fully engaged strings section to carry it through to its dramatic conclusion. Tracks like these, and various others, seem to take cues from Queen‘s best work, and Freddie Mercury‘s own flair for theatrics. While most homages to a band like Queen come off as cheap imitations, Hynes’ take on it remains subtle and tasteful.

Trading in a heavy whit for superior musical arrangements, Life Is Sweet! is a decided departure from the norm for Hynes. While meandering through 15 tracks, he shows off his chops for undertaking everything from doo-wop (“I Don’t Want to Wake Up Alone”) to classical pieces (“Etude Op. 3 ‘Goodnight Michalek'”), and beyond. Though calling him a ‘genius’ may be a stretch, perhaps ‘master’ isn’t too far off anymore.

-John Cassillo

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