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CD Review – Air “Talkie Walkie”

Talkie Walkie
Astral Works

Much like the gaseous state of matter that is the band’s namesake, Air’s sound on the unfortunately titled Talkie Walkie is light and spacious.

Overall, it is an impressive album with some truly imaginative songs. With some improved subject matter, this one could have been a classic.

But the music is good enough to stand on its own. And, hey, it may even be the “Let’s Get it On” of 2004.

Talkie is the French duo’s third album under the Air moniker.

The pair also wrote the entire soundtrack for Sophia Coppola’s debut, The Virgin Suicides, and contributed a track to her 2003 film, Lost in Translation.

For the most part, Air stuck to its tried and true method of songwriting with Talkie.

The band’s songs, on the surface at least, tend to revolve around the central idea of trying to get laid, while still sounding emotionally attached and sensitive about it all.

The opening track, “Venus,” expresses that sentiment exactly. With cheesy, pseudo-tenderhearted lyrics: “You could be from Venus/ I could be from Mars/ We would be together/ Lovers forever/ Care for each other,” this theme becomes explicitly clear to the listener.

Despite “Venus” being void of lyrical substance, the rest of Talkie is full of musical expression and instrumentation that far exceeds most pop records.

On the second track, “Cherry Blossom Girl,” which sounds very reminiscent of Air’s hit from The Virgin Suicides soundtrack “Playground Love,” there is a whole host of instruments and tones at play. The song builds off of a beautifully-picked acoustic guitar track.

The sweetly calm vocals utter more nonsense like: “I feel sick all day long from not being with you,” and weave in and out of cool synthesizer bass lines and breathy flute solos.

Employing more of a stop-and-go format on “Run,” Air creates a song more haunting than pretty. Heavily effected vocals and odd electronic sounds add to the over all creepiness of the song, but a true feeling of longing for lazy mornings lying in bed with a woman comes through in the delivery.

Air offers two stunning instrumental tracks on Talkie in “Mike Mills” and “Alone in Kyoto” (which also appears on the Lost in Translation soundtrack). “Mike Mills” is a beautiful arrangement employing many acoustic instruments — guitar, baby-grand piano, cello and violin — over a simple electronic drumbeat.

An intense and dark electric piano gives a lot of contrast to the track and adds the much-needed heavy tone to balance out the acoustic instruments.

Whether the track’s name refers to the R.E.M. bassist or the film director, though, is unclear.

“Alone in Kyoto” offers a similar mix of tones, but is much lighter and uses more percussive instruments.

The only real mishap on the album is the repetitive and uninspired “Surfing on a Rocket.” Repeating its title in the chorus 25 times, the song is both disappointingly irritating and benign. The only other real complaint is that Talkie is too short. It is 10-tracks long, but Air only manages to get in 44 minutes of music.

In spite of Talkie’s weaknesses, they are of little importance when simply listening to the music and breathing the gaseous matter known as Air.