Why is it that nostalgia is so “in” right now? Well, to put it simply – it’s because the current year sucks ass. A pandemic, waves of anti-LGBTQ legislation, climate change, economic distress, etc. etc. Wouldn’t it be nice to place yourself in a different time period? Don’t you just want to kick back and enjoy some nice 80’s pop instead and get away from it all?
To scratch that retro itch while still staying grounded in the now, give Lucky Number You’s debut album Aftercare a listen. The Birmingham-based trio revels in the musical cues of the past, but takes time to acknowledge the trials of today in their songs. All of the retro new wave affectations here couch messages about anxiety for the future that we’re all painfully familiar with – but this time, at least it’s anxiety you can dance to.
The opening track, “Clown World Rises,” sets the tone of the record perfectly. The slow synth build-up gives way to a nostalgic city pop guitar riff and joyous whoops. It’s a toe-tapping, infectious track that’s peppered with charming bits like a quick nod to Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” and cheeky backing vocals.
As dance-y and peppy as the song sounds, though, there’s a dash of melancholy throughout. It might be something you miss on the first listen as you groove to the retro-pop rhythms, but lyrically these songs deal with themes of solitude, rejection, displacement, and more. On “Clown World Rises” in particular, the song deals with economic distress (and the banks are gonna burst/and my friends all fear the worst/there’s no way we can trust these tides) and a general distrust of the future.
Get a little deeper into the tracklist, and you start to hear more straightforward criticisms of the modern world. On “The Great British Steal,” the band directly confronts the UK government that invokes nostalgia and outdated views to push agendas of xenophobia and hatred. Here, the retro sound adds a layer of irony to the track – while politicians push false messages about “the good old days,” Lucky Number You uses nostalgia to challenge those types of viewpoints.
I wanna wake up in a different age/feeling elaborate and in control
Another stand-out here is “International Man of Misery,” which takes jabs at the modern dating scene and how it grates on you as you get older. The track highlights some of the clever lyrical turns that the group is so good at – “another Valentine’s Day in the boring ‘20s/I miss my whoring twenties!”
Aftercare takes on a few unexpected topics along the way, as well. If there’s one thing I wasn’t expecting to hear on a pop-rock album in 2022, it’s a dancehall-inspired song about Richard Nixon, but Lucky Number You crafts just that on “Searchlight On the Lawn.” And despite how odd that combination sounds, it works!
There’s a surprising amount of depth to this debut. If there’s a flaw here, it’s that the songs are deceptively simple on first listen. At first blush, you may mistakenly think it’s just another escapist pop album, but listen a little closer past those thrumming basslines and thunderous drums. The contrast between the catchy melodies you hear and the stories being told might just take you by surprise.
Lucky Number You’s album Aftercare is available today, April 22, via Flagrant Disregard Records. Support it on Bandcamp or check out their linktree to see where it’s available to stream.