O Emperor are the latest of an exciting new crop of bands to hail from the Emerald Isle – their dreamy, irreverent style feels like a mish-mash of shoegaze, surf rock and dream pop, with some psychedelia thrown in there for good measure. It’s always great to hear a band with a bit of a genre problem, being able to colour sound with varied genre pigments is a skill that requires honing, and O Emperor seem to have already mastered it.

Most would be surprised to hear that the lads from Waterford already have two self-published full length releases under their belt, particularly considering their sound on ‘Lizard‘ is so fresh, full of dreamy, poppy promise.

O Emperor are a band which have been honing their sound, grafting to build a fan-base for the last three or so years since their first release in 2012 ‘Hither Thither’, a solid yet decidedly less experimental affair than ‘Lizard’ proves to be. Their first album doesn’t sound unlike Wilco, and it’s really ear-opening to chart their sonic upheaval over the past three years from this release to their current EP – they sound like a different band (in no way is this a bad thing).

Second album ‘Vitreous’ is where these experimental tendencies start to creep in. ‘Minuet’ and ‘Holy Fool’ nod towards dream-pop and psychedelia respectively, and build on the sounds used in ‘Hither Thither’ to really lay the groundwork for ‘Lizard’.

By the time we get to ‘Lizard’, O Emperor have fully embraced an experimental sound and hit us with electronic elements, synthesised vocals and heavily effects-laden guitars to create a palette of sound which keeps on shifting and keeps us guessing.

Underneath this sonic playground is a foundation of solid yet unconventional pop songs, with ‘Trash Club’ sounding like a psychedelic Beach Boys.

Opener ‘The Sky Is Your Oyster’ captivates the listener with some really nice disco themes.

A missing element for ‘Lizard’ though, is the lack of strong hooks. As satisfying and unique as their sound is, without some really strong pop hooks, it’s probably unsustainable in the long term. ‘Lizard’ works in the moment because of the production value, its genre-melding tendencies, but fails to have a really lasting effect. Having said this, ‘Lizard’ is O Emperor’s strongest release to date, their evolving sound showcased brilliantly in this beautifully nuanced EP – but we need something to come back for!

 

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