It feels wrong to criticise something that tries so hard to be fun. But that’s just it, Matt and Kim‘s relentless attempts to make us enjoy ourselves border on being annoying. The thrill is in the chase, a concept lost on New Glow. Throughout the album Matt and Kim throw up all the energy they can muster, but its superficial and perhaps even shallow.
That’s not to say that all music needs to be profound, or thought-provoking, or the key to unlocking some sort of emotionally heightened mood. But even when it isn’t these things it can still be charming and clever. The indie duo use abrasive beats to mask the vapidity of their lyrics. Case in point, ‘Hoodie On’ – a song quite literally about the pretty ordinary piece of clothing. Maybe Matt and Kim were trying to be whimsical, or funny, but the song lacks the wit that would make it seem like it was born out of anything other than a mindblank. (Though, to their credit, they have come up with a surprising number of activities that can be done wearing this versatile garment).
But it’s not all bad. Matt Johnson’s voice is just as endearing as it was during their first four albums, and is definitely the most attractive aspect of New Glow. ‘Killin’ Me’ is a stand-out track as it is bubbly and infectious in the right measure. ‘Make a Mess’ sounds like it has walked straight off an arcade game, and would sound pretty incredible as a stylophone solo.
Matt and Kim are well renowned for being a good live act, and listening to New Glow it is possible to see why. There are a number of tracks like ‘Hey Now’ that will translate well on stage because their aim is to get people up and moving. And maybe that’s just what this album needs to be taken as. But it’s fair to say that when all of the performative atmosphere is stripped away, as an album it falls short.