Since his departure from long-term band Crayon Fields two years ago, Melbourne local Geoffrey O’Connor has made it his mission to release some beautifully dark, 80s-inspired pop music. O’Connor’s first solo album Vanity Is Forever was full of jangly disco guitars, clever yet understated lyrics and a lush variety of synthesizers. His sophomore release Fan Fiction picks up from where he left off.
Fan Fiction is an undoubtably Australian-sounding record. O’Connor’s voice has a twang and tone reflecting that of New Wave 80s Australiana (think The Church, The Go-Betweens, Roland S. Howard). His sophisticated accent and lack of reverb on his vocals give the record a somewhat organic feel amidst an otherwise artificial, electronic environment. The first track on the record, ‘Never Have You Looked So Good’, sets the tone for the rest of the album. A flowing array of synth pads resembling that of an Enya-led choir, a haunting, echo-ridden guitar pattern, and a somewhat adolescent vocal delivery creates this upbeat pop song to kick off the album.
While most tracks share similar instrumentals, the album varies between tempos and tones. ‘Please’, for instance, takes the more traditional synth pop route; with a BPM around the 120 mark with bright arpeggiating synth patterns and brilliant female backing vocals courtesy of Jessica Venables. It’s hard to listen to ‘Please’ without making direct comparisons to The Pet Shop Boys, as the combination of O’Connor’s soft clean dance vocal, polysynth leads, and luscious pads to fill out the track are reminiscent of ‘West End Girls’ and ‘Always On My Mind’. O’Connor also incorporates this house-tinged style in track seven ‘Another Time’.
The more heartfelt storytelling side of the album comes from ‘Her Name On Every Tounge’. O’Connor voices this slick production with lyrics written in third person; allowing him to vocalise the story from an outside perspective. It’s his confidence in the crooner-style delivery that saves this song from becoming a tacky retro throwback. Delicate yet complex piano chords provided by Alexander Burnett (Sparkadia) (seriously, where did they go?) ties this simple song about a girl together with the electronic vocoder-ridden patchwork that makes up the rest of this calming pop ballad.
One of the many highlights of Fan Fiction is adult contemporary disco track ‘Greatest Hit’. O’Connor packs a catchy chord structure, an infectious beat, mesmerizing synth patches and catchy lyrics into a concise three and a half minuets of pop genius. “You, you’re my pride, my greatest hit” exclaims O’Connor, a vocal worthy of a New Order tune. Thin-sounding lead synths give this song a haunting feel to it; a somewhat dark interpretation of sunshine pop time traveled back to 1986. ‘Greatest Hit’ has huge radio appeal, dance floor potential, and a late night vibe to fit the album Geoffrey has created.
Fan Fiction at first listen could easily be mistaken as a homage to the era Geoffrey O’Connor so clearly loves and cherishes. But beyond that, it’s a classy, well written, and brilliantly produced pop record with a lush array of instruments to aesthetically please the electronic music lovers taste. O’Connor achieves a beautiful contrast of light and shade without a hitch with his sophomore record, a promising sign of things to come.