sat 01/11/2014

CD: Calvin Harris - 18 Months | New music reviews, news & interviews

CD: Calvin Harris - 18 Months

Mall noise from an obstreperous Scot proves bearable

18 Months: cantankerous dance-pop

Pop is a silly business in so many ways, but even so I don't think I ever imagined that when the year 2012 came, the globe's charts would be dominated by a dopey-looking middle-aged Frenchman and a lanky grouch from Dundee. But here we are, with a billion radios blasting a new, ramped up, amped up, obliteratingly popular kind of dance-pop, with David Guetta and Calvin Harris the new overlords, each with megastars on speed-dial.

Where Guetta is the bland enthusiast, never less than 100 percent on-brand, Harris is a cantankerous sod and perpetual square peg, and that's maybe reflected in his music being that crucial bit more interesting. OK, the melody lines are almost comically simple, their one-finger blips lumbering up and down the major scales, and the rhythms rinsed with industrial bleach to remove any last traces of syncopation – but the compression of the sound, while fierce, is vastly subtler than Guetta's all-loud-all-the-time migraine house, and best of all, each song has a character of its own.

“Bounce” with Kelis and the mighty “We Found Love” with Rihanna, both here, are a case in point, the ping-pong melodies somehow addictive, the production full of tweaks and twists that subverts its own blaring, mall-noise aesthetic. There's plenty more that's great: a lumbering “China” with Dizzee Rascal, the sugary fizz and clanging pianos of “I Need Your Love” with Ellie Goulding, the joyfully moronic indie guitar riff of “Feel so Close”, even “Sweet Nothing” with the normally ghastly Florence Welch. There's a lot that total guff too, of course, not least the screeching generic trance blurt of “Drinking from the Bottle” with Tinie Tempah. But unlike Guetta, the sonic variety is enough to make skipping the odd track seem worthwhile – this narky and bloody-minded Scot has, once again, done pretty good.

Harris is a cantankerous sod and perpetual squarepeg, and that's maybe reflected in his music being that crucial bit more interesting

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