It’s a pretty safe bet that if “The Neverending Story” were made into an album, it would sound something like M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Like a children’s acid trip of a movie, M83’s newest release is an ode to childhood innocence, dreams and the tribulations of growing up — and just as “neverending.”
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
The successes on Hurry Up are triumphant. “Intro” slowly morphs into an epiphany replete with reverb-y choir, emphatic drums and energetic bells. “Midnight City,” the first single, lays intoxicatingly danceable yelps over fuzzy, flowing synthesizer and throws in a surprisingly effective ’80s-style saxophone solo. Interspersed throughout are atmospheric instrumentals such as “Where the Boats Go” and “Train to Pluton,” which transport listeners from mood to mood without seeming forced. However, for all the impressive mood-setting and powerful drum and synthesizer lines, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming sinks under the weight of its own expectations.
But Hurry Up fails precisely because it is too ambitious. French-born Anthony Gonzalez — the lone member of M83 — has crafted a gargantuan double album spanning over 70 minutes that is at times an otherworldly masterpiece. However, Gonzalez seems to repeat himself on multiple occasions, spoiling the lush, ambient rock that has been M83’s trademark for over a decade.
By no means does Gonzalez fail completely; in fact, the music is transcendent in many instances. The album’s expansiveness lends to Gonzalez’s surreal, celestial atmosphere and is derived from his own growing pains.
At 30, Gonzalez decided he needed a colossal change in his life and moved from southern France to Los Angeles. The dramatic shake-up, along with some alone time in Joshua Tree National Park, inspired the contemplative musician to record his ode to dreams: “How every one is different, (and) how you dream differently when you’re a kid, a teenager, or an adult,” as he told Spin Magazine.
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is indeed about dreaming, but the dream is a polarizing tableau of 1980s synthpop. With few exceptions, the entire album is a reminder of what happens when an artist’s vision clouds the musical sensibilities. Sure, “Midnight City” is a fantastic and exciting track, but when there are two other songs that sound a little too similar (“Claudia Lewis,” “Steve McQueen”), it makes for a repetitive listening experience.
Gonzalez believes the two sides of the album act as “siblings,” but they sound a little more like twins, which is unsurprising when considering the lack of diversity in the production process. Gonzalez acted as sole songwriter, musician and producer behind Hurry Up, and it’s evident. The first seven songs are original, emotional and memorable, but 13 of the next 15 are alternate versions of the same tune.
A double album should be a journey full of stylistic twists and turns — otherwise, it becomes stale. While Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a compelling journey in some sense, there is not enough substance to justify 73 minutes of music. No one is questioning M83’s ability to generate mammoth soundscapes, as Gonzalez’s body of work speaks for itself. But next time, cut out half so that the “neverending” story can end.