The debut album from Californian meta pop wizards Once & Future Band blasts off with a huge sugar rush of stomping drums and starburst fanfares, immediately laying its cards on the table. Unselfconsciously indebted to the big soft rock sounds of the mid-70s, this is music that manages to be both ‘easy’ and ‘difficult’ at the same time, the references it abounds with sometimes getting in the way of its enjoyment.
Yet when it takes a deep breath and stops puffing its chest out in mock bravado, there’s some wonderfully lush and immersive music in here. There’s plenty of discreetly proggy moments too, for instance, the way that guitar and synth melt together on the super-charged Beatles-by-Queen pastiche of I’ll Be Fine. The spacious, chilled out atmosphere of Hide & Seek is like a slow-mo, sci-fi version of Steely Dan, while the woozy, funky keys of Rolando recalls Stevie Wonder at his most discursive. At times, the songs threaten to collapse into AOR slush, and the ersatz cocaine opulence of the sound can make your teeth itch. But this is a clever and accomplished album, even if listening to it feels like an audaciously decadent experience in these uncertain times.