Label: Domino Records Release Date: 1/02/10 Website: Official Website Lightspeed Champion is the stage name of solo artist Dev Hynes, hairy hat-promoting former singer for the Test Icicles. His acclaimed debut album was released in January 2008, and Dev made it onto the NME Cool List for two years in a row, a feat saved only for those with unusual hairstyles (or hats) or ridiculous band names. ‘Dead Head Blues’ begins his new album, Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You, starting softly with a repeated guitar note and then a piano-accompanied first verse. Melancholic and maybe a little clichéd, it builds, Dev Hynes’ memorable voice moaning lyrics about premonitions and feelings. From time to time, more instruments join to pad the song out, and the rhythm picks up a little. Then, it goes on a bit too long, a bit too sweetly. For me, the first track is a summary of the whole album. Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You has its good moments. ‘Marlene’, all jaunty percussion and film-score instrumental licks, is one of the catchiest tracks on the album, though it is ruined by the strained emotional chorus, which Dev Hynes doesn’t have the voice for. Deliberately nursery-rhyme-esque ‘The Big Guns of Highsmith’ has echoes of prog rock: it is almost like a track from a rock opera, which probably makes it an acquired taste. Those tracks are both highs though, along with edgy ‘I Don’t Want To Wake Up Alone’, and the quirkily tender ‘Smooth Day (At The Library)’. However, the whole album has an air of ‘trying too hard’ about it; the songs often overuse instrumentation, so every instrument is made bland by its proximity to so many others, and the fact it is playing simple, predictable riffs and chords. There are lots of successful musical moments on the album, but they tend to lifelessly float into boring conclusions. A perfect example of this is in ‘Middle of the Dark’, a decent track that at 2:20 loses its energy and turns into a dull rock ballad. I wasn’t particularly grabbed by this album. A niche market is, I am sure, the target for Lightspeed Champion: Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You is eccentric and unusual (even if it definitely trying to be), and it sparkles in places to make up for being lacklustre in others. Dev Hynes has an original voice and definitely has some good ideas: this album probably doesn’t showcase them to their best advantage, though it is worth a listen. Photobucket