It’s strange to think of a time now where the general view of pop music was as a lesser, throwaway genre. Granted, that’s not a false assumption in some senses, but where the reverberations of poptimism have always been rumbling around to an extent, the advent of internet criticism has given pop music of all eras a chance to be re-evaluated and recontextualised within musical history, often in their favour. It’s arguably cooler to like pop now than it ever has been, partly because of how rampant that wave of poptimism has become, and partly because of the vast number of acts in recent years who’ve taken a genre that’s already broad (perhaps overly so) and made any possible strain feel credible and contemporary. And that’s where an act like Deco come in, a London synthpop duo who most noticeably have played with Jess Glynne, but find themselves more comfortable in the crossover between shameless, multi-coloured ‘80s throwbacks, and the form that same vibe and mindset has taken in the 21st Century thanks to the likes of the earlier work from The 1975 or the rest of the Dirty Hit cadre. That’s about as sure-footed as pop in 2020 gets, especially for going into a debut EP where there’s essentially everything for Deco to gain.
That also puts Real Life in a strange position though, given that for a debut EP that is effectively a display of stitching together influences in order to make something to inevitably outgrow, Deco are already really good at what they do. As far as bright, tight indie-pop songs go, they’re doing exactly what’s expected of them, and that’s already a pretty fulfilling experience, even for an EP that’s only four tracks long. That’s quite the accomplishment for a band so early on, where any hints that this mightn’t be the finished article are more features than flaws. And while staying power will obviously come when the releases get longer and Deco have that space to be a bit more creative, this still feels like something worth returning to regardless. Again, for a debut EP, it’s hard to put too much shade on what Real Life achieves.
It helps that Deco come swinging right out of the gate with watertight hooks and melody composition that pop in this vein lives and dies upon. That’s most noticeable in the title track, where the illustrious, glittering synths and saxophone come together in perfect ‘80s harmony, popping enough on a chorus that’s already a major earworm in Deco’s catalogue and elevated even further by just how close to George Michael vocalist Max Kendall sounds. And that isn’t even the be all, end all with this EP either; there’s a more contemporary feel in I Don’t Wanna Go Out with its watery progressions and multi-tracking against the sharp, thinned-out guitar, and Beaches turns things around again with its blissed-out haze of synths and vocal layers. Admittedly, that isn’t the best example of Deco’s abilities seeing how it ends the EP on a rather tapering note, but it nails down a willingness to move into more atmospheric territory that’ll undoubtedly be where their learning curve will be put to the best use. Compared to Make Up Your Mind, an okay but ultimately lacking pop song in how it effectively feels like a looser midpoint between its surrounding tracks, it’s indicative of where Deco’s ideas and creativity lies, and how already they’re looking past being hemmed in by one particular sound.
And as is often that case with acts like this, the quality of composition is more than enough to push any criticism about shallow lyrics aside. Even then, it’s not like Deco are even close to the worst with this sound, especially when there’s charm in playing into its small scale on I Don’t Wanna Go Out, or simply letting the pop rush take hold and run itself on the title track. It’s a brief listen that feels brief because of that, though it’s hard to call that more than a surface critique when Deco use their time as efficiently as they do. They’ve got a knack for hitting pop beats with exceptional accuracy and force, and they’ve already cultivated a strong product from that.
In other words, while growth is a factor that will come naturally, Deco already feel like a band who could make some key strides within indie-pop and synthpop. They’ve already got one song that could become a legitimate staple within their discography, and when that’s coming from their first full-form release, that’s an impressive goal to hit in what only feels like the first leg of their career. Real Life, as such, winds up as sturdy as pop building blocks come, with its creators having already honed their ear for melody, colour and populism to a degree far beyond their years. They’re worth keeping an eye on, especially when what’s coming down the pipeline could potentially be incredibly special indeed.
For fan of: Duran Duran, The 1975, Friendly Fires
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Real Life’ by Deco is released on 29th May.