1. Pure Luxury
2. Real Good Time
3. Prisoner of Love
4. For Your Love
5. Take This Apart
6. Opening Night
8. Primp & Shine
9. Tonight Is All That Really Matters
Details Pure Luxury
Let me take you on a journey back to January 2016, when NZCA LINES’ previous album Infinite Summer arrived into a different, more innocent world. Obama-led, pre-Brexit, pre-Boris Johnson – it’s a heartwarming picture. Lovett had lovingly crafted an ambitious sci-fi inspired synth pop concept album full of allusions to Greek mythology and terraforming planets. The cover featured a bald man carrying a cocktail to a scantily clad woman reclining on a giant stone pedestal overlooking a huge – sand waterfall? – in the shadow of a gigantic sun framing a futuristic skyline. Some called the concept overwrought. Some people loved it. Some people hated it. Babies were possibly conceived to it.
But then, waking up with a crashing hangover after performing at Glastonbury Festival on June 23rd 2016, everything changed. In that grey morning, though there was little inkling of precisely what the next four years would bring, there was a palpable feeling that some irrevocable process had been set in motion.
Lovett started writing what would become his third album as NZCA LINES, Pure Luxury, that summer. He quickly realized that he could not continue with the sci-fi tropes that had underpinned his first two records. Put quite simply, Lovett says, “it seemed trite to write about a fictional utopia or fake apocalypse when the real world was becoming what seemed very like a real dystopia”. Splitting his time between London and writing trips to New York and Los Angeles, Lovett found himself present in the UK and US for some key political and social moments over the past four years. After attending the Women’s March in Washington DC on Jan 21st, 2017, he was filled with “such genuine anger that the world was seemingly being hijacked by liars only interested in serving themselves and their rich friends” that he wrote “Larsen”, the math-funk wig out that begins Pure Luxury’s more introspective (by comparison) final third. It’s a big breakup track: namely, the breaking up of the Larsen C ice shelf in 2017. Larsen features some of the most explicitly descriptive and political lyrics from the record, as Lovett sings – “Fukishima in the water poisoning the food we eat / comfort in denial 1.5 or probably 2 degrees / don’t you wanna save your daughter / from the world that you’ve created for her / don’t you want to save us all?”.
Larsen would set the tone for Pure Luxury as a whole, being rooted in Lovett’s experience of events, yet refracted through a myriad of adopted characters and acerbic commentary. Tired of the now over-familiar sound of Big Analog Synths and words like glacial, austere, and wistful, he set out with one clear intention: to be Extra. Extra is the governing musical direction on Pure Luxury, accepting that we live in a world of dwindling attention spans whilst acknowledging that traditional notions of accessible musical form are fast becoming irrelevant in a world of online streaming. Simply put, Lovett says, “I didn’t see the point in pulling punches and restraining myself. We are able to access a near-infinite stream of music that we might like based on what we already listen to; it’s an inspirational cul-de-sac. I couldn’t afford to feel like I was making something that sounded boring”. Indeed, frustrated by the restrictions of discovering music online, Lovett started seeking out physical record stores, to hear “tracks I couldn’t possibly have discovered otherwise”. A1 Records in New York became a favourite, which he frequented during a writing trip there – “the guys working would be playing amazing music I’d never heard, and I’d just buy the 12 inch vinyl”. These would eventually help make up the musical DNA of Pure Luxury, part disco pop, part hip hop grooves, all bassline.
The notion of being Extra is perhaps best encapsulated by the frenetic title track. Written in New York during a freak February heatwave, Pure Luxury is a response to the notions of luxury, status, and the insanity of pursuing material wealth in the face of environmental catastrophe. Lovett takes us on a technicolour joyride dripping with sarcasm, a hyped-up version of 21st century excess where gold trim hides rotten plywood facades, muscle cars are bought with credit cards and barbed wire fences separate luxury resorts from the slums beyond their walls. The sense of unease continues through “Real Good Time”, a lurid P-Funk groove refracted through the universe of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and hallucinations of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Lovett channels concerns about agricultural chemicals and overpopulation with a demented chorus of pitchshifted vocals – “It’s too late to save the bride / I guess she’ll just get buried alive / in waterfalls of pesticide / or gently suffocated by the groom / I just remembered how we die / I saw it on TV one time / But I guess we’ll just keep multiplying”.
This is not to say there is no emotional core to the record; on the contrary, Pure Luxury features some of Lovett’s rawest and most direct material to date. On the stately “For Your Love”, he channels the sweeping grandeur of early 70s soul and disco, with lyrics lamenting the frustrations of conducting relationships through a video screen – “I heard your voice through a photograph” “If I called this number, would I get through to you?” – set over forlorn piano and a sensuous, funky bassline. Similarly, the bereft “Take This Apart” serves as an antidote to the maximalism displayed elsewhere on the record. Over a sparse electric piano and drum machine beat, Lovett chronicles the closing moments of a relationship, the confusion of love, longing and loneliness when you realize the person closest to you could be happier without you. The delicate vocal and restrained arrangement bely an emotional turmoil perhaps embodied by the squalls of distortion that eventually rise to envelop the track.
Written and produced almost entirely by Lovett, yet featuring a wide range of collaborators, Pure Luxury revels in both the insular – the sound of one man processing anxiety-inducing world events – and the communal. It is a record of diverse styles, voices and textures, expanding the musical universe of Lovett’s previous albums whilst cementing his own playful voice with an inescapable sense of joy and excitement. Indeed, perhaps that’s what we need most when the world seems to be falling apart. Tomorrow might be scaring the hell out of us, but, as Lovett reminds us on the album’s closing track, “Tonight is all that really matters, as long as we keep dancing”.