The end is so often embedded in the beginning – so it is with Kavinsky. Clocking up 30 million views on Youtube thus far due to the song’s Drive cameo, ‘Nightcall’ has propelled this French 80s cinematic throwback act into a very modern overnight sensation (a cross between the Terminator and Beverly Hills Cop soundtracks springs to mind). The problem Kavinsky has is that it may well be downhill from here, because, I suspect, Drive‘s opening scene cannot be bettered. The throwback 80s synth, the vocoder (yes, even the vocoder!), the night time aerial city zoom out, Ryan Gosling’s antihero and his slick driving – like that scene in Fightclub when Tyler Durden (or whatever the hell his real name actually is) takes Marla’s hand, the buildings explode and ‘Where Is My Mind’ kicks in – exhibits that very rare thing: the perfect marriage of cinematography and music. And that’s kind of the problem. Divorced of strong visuals, OutRun, like a sober Hunter S. Thompson, feels incomplete, lost. Plus, should we really accept the mainstreamisation (sorry for that Bushism) of the vocoder. I think not…I think not.

It’s not that there isn’t a story, there is:

“The year was 1986”, begins the gravelly, all-American narrator on ‘Prelude’, “Here was a teenager like any other, dreaming of his heroes and in love with a girl. But on a thunderous night along a ragged coast, a mysterious red car came down, its power lighting his eyes blood red…all was lost in a hellfire of twisted metal…” A car hits our hero, man and car become one, and he is doomed to roam the streets, invisible to everyone but her.

Great, all extravagantly and suitably 80s, but I want to know what happens next, and we aren’t even granted an engaging narrative, just loads of massive, super-dramatic synths with the odd vocal, usually inhabiting the album’s peaks. The rest is fun, but little more than a veneer featuring one near identical track after another – think Neon Neon without Gruff Rhys’ wry lyricism.

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh. Even if it is just a veneer  it’s still glowing with neon lights, and every bit as exciting as Daft Punk’s work on Tron Legacy – undoubtedly this is a major influence. ‘Blizzard’ would be the perfect accompaniment to a tooling up, Evil Dead 2-esque, I’m going to get medieval on their asses, revenge scene, and ‘ProtoVision’ feels like flying through space in an invisible ship, naked. We’re even treated to vocals on ‘Odd Look’, though here they feel oddly redundant, and by track 5, ‘Rampage’, the album starts to feel like its running out of ideas…this is a copy of a copy of a copy. What’s happening in the rampage? Are torsos and limbs being splattered across the pavement by a bloodthirsty car? I want to know more, but alas, frustration.

Hiphop track 6, ‘Suburbia’ reignites the whole enterprise. “I come alive in my fast fast car”, and the album is reanimated…only to be murdered again with ‘Testarossa Autodrive’, which is very much Kavinsky on autopilot. ‘Nightcall’ still sounds absolutely amazing, but again, from here it feels like the album is trying to capture the earlier tracks’ immediacy. Instead, they come out as carbon copies, and are, hence, less interesting. ‘Firstblood’ is pretty cool, but by the end, as the opening narrator hoves back into view, the album feels like one of those films that’s trying to open itself up into being a franchise, where you’re left wondering what more could a sequel possibly offer? At this moment it remains “unclear”.

So what does this leave you with? An album that is fun, sometimes exceptionally so, but one that also lacks, and sorely needs, plot development – not a criticism you get to level at many albums. Set to some sort of ultra-violent racing game, like Road Rash, or a film like Tron, this music would really fly. On its own the wings are most definitely clipped. Is this yet another example of ephemeral Youtube fame? Quite possibly, but I hope not. What we have here is misdirected talent, but talent nonetheless.

Release Date 25/02/2013 (Mercury Records Ltd)

Chris Gilliver

I started out writing for the Manchester Evening News as a freelance journalist back in 2008. The idea that I would be given free access to music and gigs seemed somehow miraculous to me, and I proceeded to take full advantage of the situation. When the M.E.N. decided to constrict its coverage to only the very biggest bands, Simon Poole approached me with a plan to make sure that all the very talented musicians of this world that pass through and/or live in Manchester would not go unnoticed. As the New Releases editor here at Silent Radio Towers, it remains my proud duty to cast a critical eye over the music and reviews that come my way in a manner that is both supportive and fair. Above all, I strive to write as entertainingly possible. Favourite musicians include the Pixies, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mercury Rev, Os Mutantes, The Knife, Beach House etc etc. I'm a firm believer that all genres (except nu-metal) contain music of great quality...