The Outfield’s new album Replay leaves me feeling like I’ve heard it before. Replay is a pop-prog mashup taking cues from the ultra processed power sound that The Police and Yes employed to chart topping perfection in the early 80s (and that Rush has adopted to lesser effect since the early 90s). The tunes here are more musically complex than the hits you remember, “Your Love” and “Say It Isn’t So”, from their triple platinum release Play Deep from 1985. But all the processing and post-production work makes this album a bit predictable after hearing just a few tracks.
Replay is very much driven by the high tenor vocals from frontman Tony Lewis. He might have lost a note in range since the 80s, but he had an astoundingly high range to begin with. Compressed and phased vocal harmonies are featured on almost every track. The musicianship of the performers is impeccable. Still, I yearn for more soul than the thick audio processing permits.
The track “California Sun” opens with a capella harmonies, much like 90125’s “Hold On”. The basic guitar riff starts immediately after the harmonies and repeats for nearly the whole song. I’d prefer this tune go somewhere, rather than just repeating the same riff and working in layered instrumentation at the end. “Call It Out” sounds like an outtake from Synchronicity: Andy Summers-style ringing chords with jangly delay, a decending vocal line, and a little alt-beat break in the middle.
The album continues in similar fashion, with the exception “Shake Your Thing”: it works hard at being a stomping rock song, but still has a bit too much of the jangly-jangly to really jar anyone. “Shake your thing – like your momma did” sings the vocalist. I’m mainly left shaking my head. I still feel like I’ve heard it before.
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