A shimmering, blinding joy emanates from the new album by the enigmatic Dons Savage under the nom de plume of Dead Famous People. I’ve written before that there has to be a genetic implant in New Zealanders – it can be found in the work of The Chills, The Clean and The Bats – in other words the Dunedin movement – historically attached to Flying Nun Records. The purest pop songs expressed with sincerity and melody – an almost innocent and naïf approach.
Indeed, Dead Famous People has links to all this movement but somehow never settled into something more permanent or sustained. Savage moved to the UK thirty years ago where she sang with St Etienne, signed with Utility Records – Billy Bragg’s short-lived label, provided backing vocals to The Chills’s ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’ before returning to New Zealand and apparently disappearing. Savage and Dead Famous People made a triumphant return in 2021 with the beautiful album ‘Harry’ (see my review here).
The new album ‘Ballet Boy’ is filled to the brim with a joyous carefree happiness and the brightest of melodies, and as with any good pop song, a thread of melancholy weaves its way throughout the album.
The title track and the ebullient ‘My Only friend Is A Cat’ with its waving keyboard bounce and pretty melodies, are prime examples of the radiance. There is a gentle naivety in ‘Home Is Where You Are’ with its innocent optimism delivered in a sort of sixties swinging Mike Sammes Singers prettiness, replicated in ‘Come Back Liar’ with its slightly darker themes as the singer pleads for the return of a nefarious lover.
The titles tell their own gorgeous tales of love, devotion and the mundanity of everyday existence – ‘Don’t Go To Work’ pleading for a lover to stay home rather than working for someone else who doesn’t care with a lilting Hammond organ skip, or the tales of teenage indolence and adolescence angst in ‘Teenage World’.
Savage utilises jangling guitars that ring like a bell with layered harmonies in vocals set back in the mix, distant and observant. The expressive romanticism bleeds through every note – ‘I Think Of You’ is simple, honest and raw, ‘Remember To Call’ has a high-stepping pace and a fairground organ accompaniment that recalls the zaniness of early Split Enz.
Final track ‘Sad As A Grey Sky’ ends on a more sombre note – a gentle ballad about the passing of a loved one
Pure pop lies at the heart of this album, imbued with an innocence and embellished with sky-scraping melodies and jangling guitars. A sense of optimism and romance without a shred of cynicism pervades the album – a much needed panacea to our world.
‘Ballet Boy’ is out everywhere and available to download and stream through all the usual sites and through the link below.