The lineup: Mads Damsgaard Kristiansen (vocals, keyboards), Esben Valløe (bass).
The background: Reptile Youth are a duo who sound like a band. A big band with a big production. A big '80s production. Put it this way: Frankie Goes To Hollywood have been referenced in more than one review of the Danish pair's new album, Rivers That Run For a Sea That Is Gone. (See? Even their titles are massive). And '80s bands with the fulsome sonics don't come much huger than Frankie, especially when you factor in the input of one Trevor Horn, the George Martin of hi-tech bombast. Yes, it may well be, as we speak, the 20th anniversary of Britpop, and of course we should mourn the death of Kurt Cobain for the umpteenth time. But can we please mark another, earlier pop moment by saluting the greatest ever purveyors of tech-heavy Scouse ultradisco, whose Two Tribes was released 20 years ago this month and had such a seismic impact on the charts they even named the remixes Annihilation and Hibakusha, the latter the Japanese word for "explosion-affected people", used to denote the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? We can? Thank you.
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Reptile Youth are a bit playful like Frankie were, a bit provocative, with a keen awareness of the value of controversy. They have songs with titles such as Be My Yoko Ono and Shooting Up Sunshine, and their videos and artwork feature all manner of stylish unpleasantness and fauxmoerotic imagery. There is a sense that it is their duty to be sensational, and if they don't always succeed, or it sometimes comes across half-cocked, at least they're trying. One of them has a moustache: it is very wry. Their wryness tends to undercut their every power chord and thunderous beat, but then, we could swear Daft Punk seemed too good, too knowing, to be true when they first emerged. Besides, it isn't all irony round their way. According to Lasse Martinussen, director of the video to their latest single Above, they're the real deal. "I had heard about their crazy shows in China so they already had this strange, almost ancient, mythology around them," he marvelled. "The lead singer was beyond performing; almost sacrificing himself to his biggest belief, while the bassist was hypnotising through the music. It was something I had never experienced before; something tremendous, sexy, epic, violent."
There is a very welcome feeling of overreach throughout the album. It's exceedingly diverse: power ballads rub (padded) shoulders with disco, synth pop and punk. Sometimes they suggest a hipster take on something defiantly un-hip - INXS, perhaps. Colours is like a bad Bowie impression, by which we mean a decent impression of Bowie when he'd gone off the boil as opposed to an inaccurate one of Ziggy-era DB. The title track opens with OTT riffing before segueing into ZZ Top-esque bionic boogie. Epicness abounds on Structures, almost reaching Muse levels of symphonic grandeur. There is ambition here, and evidently a budget. Where You End I Begin starts with the eruptive chorus and goes from there, building towards a full-on coda like a glam-era anthem. Above is groovy in an AOR Fleetwood Mac/Lindsey Buckingham way, even if, as we say, the video indicates artier, indier forces at work. It's pretty potent, up to and including eight-minute blow-out Diseased By Desire, complete with baggy freak-out. Not every track kills - Dead End sounds like U2, although even there it seems deliberate: "I feel like Moses on a mountain," sings Kristiansen, a neat encapsulation of Bono hubris if ever we heard one. We're All In Here is a mixed blessing, depending how excited you are by the prospect of a rave-era Frankie. Still, at its best, this deserves, even demands, to be heard. To be stolen or bought.
The buzz: "This album in its entirety will without a doubt be a crowd-pleaser for a few summers to come."
The truth: Welcome to the pleasuredome.
Most likely to: Overwhelm.
Least likely to: Relax.
What to buy: Rivers That Run For a Sea That Is Gone is out now.
File next to: FGTH, INXS, Aeroplane, Duran Duran.
Ones to watch: Shunkan, Sea Change, Laurel, Phoria, Vic Mensa.