When Dev Hynes split up shortlived dance-punk scenesters Test Icicles in 2006, he claimed that the Londoners parted because they themselves weren't even fans of their irritable, beat-fuelled mayhem. "We were never, ever that keen on the music," he said. "I understand that people liked it, but we personally, er, didn't."
It's no surprise then that Hynes has shuffled his way to the other end of the spectrum to create the country-rock flavoured 'Falling off the Lavender Bridge' – his first album under the Lightspeed Champion moniker. What is a shock however - given how poor an outfit Test Icicles were - is that Hynes' solo debut often bristles with quality.
Produced by Bright Eyes member Mike Moggis, 'Falling off the Lavender Bridge' blends lush Britpop with folk, country and Americana, making for a much more musically mature record than might have been expected.
Recorded in Bright Eyes' base of Omaha, Nebraska, Hynes' record is filled with emotive melodies, acoustic guitars and lilting strings. A number of Bright Eyes and Saddle Creek records regulars also crop up to offer input, taking Hynes' decidedly low-key London indie lullabies and propping them up with shades of Nashville and Bright Eyes- flavoured folk rock.
Indeed, given Mogis' input, it's hard not to listen to Lightspeed Champion without Conor Oberst being brought to mind. It's a comparison however which takes away from Hynes', highlighting his shortcomings rather than pointing out his positive attributes.
Such plus points to Hynes' songs are his deft hand at twisting complex melody around simple guitar progressions, all of which he does to strong effect on the album's opening brace of songs, namely singles 'Galaxy of The Lost'; 'Tell Me What It's Worth'; and the 10-minute folk-epic 'Midnight Surprise'.
Where the album falters - in comparison to Oberst - is that Hynes' rambles lack the poetic swirl his former touring partner can seemingly unleash at will. Not to say that Hynes' lyrics are poor, though they trap the album in 2008 and it's likely that 'Falling off the Lavender Bridge' won't age well.
Hynes' focus is on taking pot shots at London scene kids listening to whatever genre is 'hip' and getting so drunk in Camden clubs that they get "sick in your mouth". Such lyrics drip in debt to Weezer frontman River Cuomo's dry slacker wit, though they don't sit with Hynes' as well. Against the mature musical backdrop, such subjects seem trivial and immature, while Hynes' vocal delivery - akin to Bloc Party's Kele Okereke - doesn't always serve the songs well.
Over 12 tracks the album's initial burst of quality begins to wane, and by its conclusion it feels like there's marginally more filler than killer here.
Nonetheless, at least seven of the tracks featured point towards an interesting future should Hynes' relationship with his Omaha friends begin to blossom. The singles aside; 'Dry Lips' and 'Everyone I Know Is Listening to Crunk' in particular stand out.
A better record than expected, then, but not as good as the recent hype surrounding the Londoner might suggest.