May 25, 2024

WALT DISCO – ‘UNLEARNING’ – “James enunciates, dramatises, and pulls the drama out of every word”

LUCKY NUMBER     1 April 2022

Walt Disco’s debut album has remarkable vocals, reminding me of vintage eighties acts Simple Minds, Lene Lovich or The Associates (the son of one of them co-wrote one of the songs) and, at times, of Klaus Nomi. Dramatic and slightly over-the-top, it succeeds in the bands aim of it telling a series of stories, like a stage show (hey, it even has mid-act interval music). Beats are interesting and big, the backing vocals are percussive and the proceedings are fun and speedy.

Front person James enunciates, dramatises and pulls the drama out of every word, highlighting particularly the queer experience. A five-piece band, Walt Disco all shared a flat, where much of the album was recorded during lockdown. Living on top of each other and locked in must have helped up the emotional temperature and add to the fevered atmosphere. Listen to ‘Timeline’ and savour that combination of tortured vocals and poppy autotune. The whole is theatrical in delivery but mainstream pop-accessible thanks to the beats and tunes and the way that sweet bass figures keep popping up. It’s a modern album and songs like ‘Timeline’ would be meaningless twenty years ago but register with anyone dating in the last couple of decades.

We open on the single, ‘Weightless’, musing on the sense of arriving late to your own gender identity, and the puzzle of whether you are doing that identity ‘right’. Be An Actor’ is glamorous and consciously deliciously mannered.  ‘Those Kept Close’ is full of lockdown feeling and has a mantra repeating throughout as James keeps his focus through difficult times. ‘Hold Yourself As High As Her’ is a great little dance number with an upbeat message and a lovely synth line as it stresses the joy in accepting and celebrating yourself, riffing on James’ experience of coming out as non-binary, though it rings true everywhere else.

Plenty of other songs are about falling in love, falling out of love, pretending to be in love – basically a great whirlwind of feelings, hot-housed in a lockdown house that must at times have felt like The Big Brother House. It’s made for a tumultuous experience but one that would be nothing without a big synth-dance-pop production and tasty musical licks.

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