Album Review: SG Lewis – times
George Ward reviews SG Lewis’ debut album times.
Out of all the times for English producer/songwriter SG Lewis to release his debut album, the middle of a lockdown has to be the worst. The album is a mix of nu-disco and house bangers and electro-pop with a lot of synths (and a lot of features) and while there are definitely great moments, it is neither good or bad enough to have any kind of extreme emotion towards it.
The album opens very strongly with the song ‘Time’. The string samples play over a house beat while Rhye’s falsetto vocals repeat the hook ‘don’t waste his time’ and the song’s simplicity shows just how good Lewis is when he makes this kind of disco and house music. On the topic of wasting time, it is probably a waste of your time to put much effort into listening to what Lewis and his features are saying on the record as most of the time they use every generic party trope you can think of- ‘we can keep going till the morning sun’, ‘don’t turn down the stereo’, ‘your sweat is dripping, getting under my skin’ – the list goes on.
Of course, it is no surprise that Lewis writes like this – this is dance music and I feel pretty ridiculous sitting in my kitchen reviewing it when it should be played in the club where obviously nobody cares what the lyrics are. However, it does point out that Lewis is at his best when he’s keeping it simple. Both the title track and Back to Earth are cleanly produced, lively and amazing house tracks with incredibly simple vocal lines and much more of a focus on the beats.
Sometimes the more poppy tracks do work quite well. ‘Feed The Fire’ features Lucky Daye with more of the same generic songwriting but a very catchy melody and the funky synth bassline immediately reminds you of electro-house acts such as Justice or Daft Punk. ‘One More’ has another really catchy chorus and the glimmering synths on top are quite nice too.
Then there’s ‘Chemicals’ which, despite the great main synth line that sounds like a disco version of Mort Garson’s Moog tracks, is an example of when the songwriting just becomes dull. The steady, repetitive instrumental is not helped by Lewis telling the girl he is dancing with that ‘we can always blame it on the chemicals’ – it is very hard to care about his relationship here and when the instrumentals are boring, it’s hard to ignore the lazy lyrics. It is made even more disappointing by the previous track ‘Rosner’s Interlude’ which builds up with arpeggiating synths and a sample of Alex Rosner talking about what makes him want to dance. This would have been an excellent moment to drop another infectious disco-house tune but instead we are left a bit underwhelmed.
Lewis should push the disco and house elements of the album much further and leave behind these filler tracks.
The album closes with ‘Fall’, and what could be a calm moment at the end of the party comes off instead as forgettable and bland. If this is an album that is best enjoyed when you ignore the lyrics and instead imagine it in a club, this reflective ending seems bizarre and I find it unlikely that many people will have the emotional response to it that Lewis was probably intending. Compared to the other mellow track ‘Heartbreak on the Dancefloor’, with its glistening synths, simple drum machine beat and Frances’ relaxed vocals, the album closer doesn’t make me want to go back and listen to the project again.
I have been loving the disco comeback over the last few years and the fact that the most recent albums from Jessie Ware, Dua Lipa and Roísín Murphy have been so successful doesn’t help this album. This genre of pop music is so saturated that you can’t help but feel that Lewis should push the disco and house elements of the album much further and leave behind these filler tracks.
If you’re going to listen, listen to the first half of the album. These first five tracks are catchy, energetic and addictive and I hope Lewis takes this direction on his next album. Until then, we’ll have to wait until June 21 to listen to this how it’s meant to be listened to.