Saint Motel make listeners “Move” with saintmotelevision, a slick and theatrical second album.
The mad love affair between music and film stretches back a half-century. The Beatles’ Help! and the homonymous movie filmed in a “haze of marijuana” were both huge successes. Two decades later, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, arguably the best rock opera ever created, was transformed into a haunting cult film that feels like a bad trip. And while rock operas have waned in number in recent years, Green Day’s American Idiot was the first — and best — true punk opera.
saintmotelevision (yes, that’s supposed to be lowercase) is an indie pop record by former film students that is equal parts fashionable and theatrical. Saint Motel’s cinematic connections are obvious — in seven years together, the band has released 17 official music videos.
Saint Motel’s sophomore LP marks the end of a transition that began seven years ago. Their debut EP, ForPlay, sounds more like The Strokes and less like The Asteroids Galaxy Tour. 2012’s Voyeur, their first full-length album, hinted at the horn-filled dance pop that would show up two years later in their EP My Type. The EP’s title track catapulted the California-based group onto mainstream radio, reaching #9 on the Billboard Alternative Chart.
saintmotelevision is both an expansion on and an improvement of My Type. The band’s now-signature horns return in the first track, “Move.” This is an excellent choice by Saint Motel and their production team — “Move” is familiar, and it’s a great opening song.
“Sweet Talk” and “You Can Be You,” which fall at the record’s midway point, are a bit formulaic, but they, like “Move,” are crucial to the album’s overwhelming exuberance.
Where saintmotelevision triumphs, though, are the tracks that are altogether different from My Type. The album’s fourth song, “Born Again,” is rich in gospel influence and builds to a climax that is nearly impossible not to sing along with.
“Happy Accidents”, the closing track, might be the closest thing Saint Motel has ever done to an acoustic track, while “Destroyer” features a slick sax and a loud guitar solo. The album’s standout track, “For Elise,” features a bassline reminiscent of The Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger.” Its lyrics mention some of the numerous women who have changed entertainment, while describing that elusive something women have that men just can’t resist.
While Bastille’s also-cinematic Wild World is unified by Dan Smith’s vocals, saintmotelevision is linked by its musical style. No two songs sound the same, but all 10 do one thing — they get feet moving and hips shaking. That’s Saint Motel’s signature, and right now, no band is doing it better than them.