I’ll admit it: I only have the Chromatics third album, Night Drive, because of the Drive soundtrack. No shame in that.
I’ve written a handful of times about the retro, 80s-inspired revival going on right now in indie pop, and I’m loving every second of it. This record is yet another entry in this newest wave of albums borne out of the glam of the best decade of all time. I guess I just love any album that could have fit on the Vice City soundtrack, so maybe I’m biased.
Night Drive is glittering, synth-heavy, and rife with drum machines. But as the third album from the group known as Chromatics, this new direction is such a departure from their first two releases that a name change should have been in order.
The first album released under the name was a punk album, featuring ex-members of The Blood Brothers and others. Weird, right? Blood Brother Jordan Blilie’s twin sister Hannah (now the drummer of The Gossip, a whole other direction) and Devin Welch (ex-Blood Brothers, Soiled Doves) were both official members on that first release, Chrome Rats vs. Basement Rutz. A second album, Plaster Hounds, saw a whole cast of new members and produced a post-punk revival sound.
Much in the same way, Night Drive brings a host of new musicians to the band, and a musicality shift toward bands like Desire and Glass Candy.
So if, I don’t know, Fleet Foxes started playing grindcore, wouldn’t that be alarming to their fan base? Or at the very least, call for a secondary group with a different name? I guess I’m just nitpicking here, because I actually like this album, but it seems that in the day of 10,000 side projects, retaining a name and not a sound is disorienting.
One way or another, Night Drive will be your jam if you liked the Drive soundtrack, the best musical accompaniment to a movie since The Social Network a year earlier.
The highlight of the record is a cover of Kate Bush’s delightfully morose “Running Up That Hill,” and yes, it’s even better than the Placebo version.
But as is so often the case with releases in this genre, the problem of sameness crops up. While “The Killing Spree” is straight out of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, along with “Tomorrow is So Far Away” later on the album, it’s too repetitious to be enjoyed more than once in a listening binge.
The song featured on the aforementioned Drive soundtrack, “Tick of the Clock,’ closes out Night Drive. But it’s a curious inclusion for this record. I see its place for the movie, but it bares little resemblance to the rest of the Chromatics’ release. It’s a punchy, building slow-burn, one perfect for credits. Also a little befuddling: this album’s version is over 15 minutes long, whereas the Drive version is less than 5. I can see why they chopped up the best parts though: there’s just no real reason for it to go on for that long.
When Night Drive is good, it’s great. When it’s not, it’s just repetitious to the point of indifference.
From their third album (but first as this version of the band), this is the Chromatics’ cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” –
Standout tracks: “I Want Your Love” and “Night Drive” and “Let’s Make This a Moment to Remember”
Weakest track: “Healer” or “Tomorrow is So Far Away”
RIYL: Anything from the Italians Do It Better label. Desire, the Drive soundtrack, Kavinsky, Glass Candy. Synth pop, synth wave.