Before fully discussing anything about Gunship at length, it’s worth looking at the development process and eventual outcome of Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of Ready Player One from earlier this year. The rights to Ernest Cline’s novel were first obtained in 2010, but given the volume of pop culture references within it, spanning music, films, TV shows, video games and more from the ‘70s right up to the present day, it took an extra several years to secure the rights to this copyrighted material, even if it would only appear in the actual film as the most minor of details in one scene. As for the finished product itself, it’s fine as a pretty standard sci-fi film, but one of the key criticisms it received (besides being a film that puts nerd culture on such a high pedestal that was seen to essentially validate the behaviour of gamers during the Gamergate controversy) was that references took precedence over anything else, and were used as a ploy to distract from what was, at its heart, a very basic, rote YA adaptation.
And that ultimately leads to Gunship, the electronica side-project of Fightstar’s Alex Westaway and Dan Haigh who, from the hearty adoption of the synthwave sound to the neon-soaked vaporwave aesthetic, have made their adoration of the ‘80s no secret. That’s not necessarily new in electronic music either, and while Dark All Day itself stands as an embodiment of that, it’s the amount of supplementary material that’s come bundled with that’s garnered the most attention, like the features from Altered Carbon author Richard K. Morgan and Star Trek’s Wil Wheaton. That’s just the surface as well, and when digging into Dark All Day reveals even more cameos and callbacks to various spheres of pop culture, the Ready Player One syndrome begins to set in for an album whose auxiliary methods of fuelling its aesthetic supersede the actual music almost entirely, and that doesn’t make for a listen that resonates a great deal. Put it this way – it can’t be a coincidence that there’s a song on here called Art3mis & Parzival.
And sure, it’s very possible to distance all that from the actual music, but even then, Dark All Day has cracks that continue to show. For one, it’s way too long at over an hour, and when the majority of tracks here are individually the sort of huge, implacable sonic tableaux that greatly limit their own movement, it can be a real slog to get through. Sure, the analogue synths are cool, and when used in interesting ways like the low, ominous bubbling of The Drone Racing League or the gentler recreation of ‘80s power ballad swell on the cover of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, these are good, enjoyable moments. But distinction like this is something that Gunship desperately lack, and especially towards the end during the umpteenth iteration of the same choppy synths and crashing beats, the spark is well and truly lost. And it sort of feels like Gunship know this as well, and thus their references try to serve as the placeholder for musical memorability by shoving whatever sort of touchstone possible in. Still, when it comes to what are essentially partial retellings of the plots of The Lost Boys on the title track or, of course, Ready Player One on Art3mis & Parzival, it feels like a band lacking in ingenuity of their own, instead resorting to a tactic that, when used as sparingly as it is here, feels like an unworkable gimmick.
Of course, the argument can be made that Gunship aren’t really doing anything different from an artist like Carpenter Brut and his co-option of blatant ‘80s sounds and aesthetics, but the difference is that this is much more than that. Gunship have the look and the sound, sure, but they’ve essentially based their entire identity on regurgitated pop culture references, and that great mitigates what they can do of their own accord. As such, it leaves Dark All Day as a supremely unfulfilling listen, both in terms of composition that lacks the variety for what it wants to be, and in content that tries to make up for it but only serves to magnify the gaps in Gunship’s operation even further. It’s not even that this is beyond saving either, but at the minute, Dark All Day remains severely limited in how much enjoyment can be gleaned from it.
For fans of: Carpenter Brut, John Carpenter, Magic Sword
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Dark All Day’ by Gunship is out now on Horsie In The Hedge.
Abject nonsense review after the author spent an hour sniffing rubber glue.
Fair enough if you don’t like it – even if its for seemingly irrelevant asinine reasons, but who complains about an album being too long? Get a grip Nuttall.
This is the most garbage review I’ve ever read.
Whilst everyone is entitled to their own opinion readers are equally entitled to a sensible balanced and well thought out review. I’afraid this rambling poorly thought out and inaccurate review can only be described as a disgrace. If this reviewer had taken the trouble to look at other opinions and reviews he would have seen he was in a minority of one, although perhaps he one of those people who are so sure they are right he regards everyone else as being out of step and idiots. Or perhaps he thinks he will make his name by being the only “knocker”? May I respectfully suggest he gives up writing reviews and concentrates instead on something that will not bring him ridicule?
What a total load of unmitigated rubbish. This is a great album and if you can’t see that you shouldn’t be in the job.
PS It would help if you learnt how to write English and how to put together a coherent argument. Without these you are just a discredited hanger-on
I’m afraid the reviewer has embarrassed himself by writing complete rubbish from start to finish. The normal position is that reviews are written by people who know their subject and are capable of giving a sensible balanced opinion. I fear this review has been posted by the office cleaner
Time and again I read reviews that belittle the attempts of artists in music and film to create something that will bring joy to others.
Time and again I read these reviews and think to myself, why? Why can’t reviewers step back for 2 seconds, stop analysing something that doesnt need to be analysed and just revel in what their experiencing.
I’m sat here 3/4 of the way through the album and I just want more. OK it helps that I’m listening on a very decent sound system but when your being wrapped up in the audio equivalent of a comfort blanket it can’t do anything but make you feel good.
I could care less about the myriad pop culture references (well ok maybe I do find them cool as hell) but when that sax solo at the end of Artemis and Parzeval kicks in its just a beautiful thing aimed right at that lump in your throat.
I can say without hesitation this is one of the best albums of the year and I’ll be first in line if and when they announce live dates.
Oh dear Luke – you really have got this all wrong.
What in the actual fuck is wrong with you? Did you even bother to listen to the album? Or are you just physically incapable of appreciating something that isn’t sanitized pop music? Either way, do the world a favor and never write about music ever again, this is a fucking disgrace. A monkey with a typewriter could make a better review than the abomination you’ve published.
Everyone is entitled to their opinions guys n’ gals. All of your opinions are equally as valid as the reviewers. Check out my review below!
FADE IN: NEO-BIRMINGHAM 2047: NIGHT
The hulking mega-city bathes in harsh neon-lights stretching as far as the eye can. Unrelenting acid-rain batters the city. All is quiet save for the rhythmic thud of the local strip joint and the intermittent thunder of the anti-grav-train shaking the walls of my single room apartment, I sit alone…
ROLE TITLES: Gunship: Dark All Day | Review by Luke Brown
I will just get out the way and say that for me the album is almost complete perfection. A wonderful journey through the Synth-Wave landscape, soaring and at times sobering.
Synth-wave was born out of a gumball of nostalgic 80’s & 90 pop culture and retro-futurism. It revels in taking you on neon-lit tours through the memories of your youth. Few synth-wave artists do this as well as Gunship, particularly when they hit you with the warm and fuzzy feels.
‘When you grow up your heart Dies’ personifies this, it is a magical sentimental homage to the spirit of youth and is a sheer joy to listen too, wrapping you in a blanket of warm nostalgic bliss. Still gives me goosebumps several listens later.
Then there are tracks like ‘Dark all Day’ a pulsing ode to iconic action and horror movies. A plethora of synth-wave punctuated by the incredible saxophone skills of Tim Capello. Structurally It itself feels very much like a film, taking you on a journey that builds from suspenseful anticipation through to palpitating spectacle.
I never would have thought that lyrics would play such a pivotal role in Synth-Wave but Gunship are so studios and inspired by the genre defining pop-cultural iconography that they always sound right, relatable and only add to the sensation.
I don’t feel there is a over-arching through-line but Gunship appear very tied into to the three-act-structure found in movies and this album plays out very much like the heroes journey. The later half of the album isn’t as bombastic as the first and gradually winds down to the haunting ‘The Gates of Disorder’ a decidedly beautiful and ethereal resolution, bringing our heroes journey to an end.
If I sound as though I am gushing it is because I am. There are definitely a few things I could point out as not working so well, for example I think the energy is a little diminished after the high octane ‘Thrasher’ which I don’t think everyone will appreciate as much as myself. But overall the album is a towering achievement. An odyssey into a digital world full of wonder, danger, sentiment and love.
A soaring triumph.
FADE OUT: ROLE CREDITS
I enjoy the album, but I do agree that it relies far to heavily on pop culture references. 7/10 for me.