Math-pop: twisting and turning riffs and big singalong choruses. Tubelord. Colour. It may seem unlikely that a genre so often joyous could give voice to the unique self-loathing that can come with the woes of millennial life. Yet for Olympians, the Reasons To Be Tearful are stacking up: their loves have gone away, they’re fighting debts both financial and emotional, they’re feeling lonely and lifeless.
All in all, things just haven’t turned out to be what was once promised, which turned out to be a work of idealised fiction. Lyrically, this is a recurrent theme for vocalist Dan Harvey, from lines about life not living up to ‘bright sitcom scenes’ to the grave realisation that ‘being the lead character of a story doesn’t mean you’re the hero’. And this is just one of the ways in which sadness pervades this record. Elsewhere, ‘Battery Neck’ laments the inability to reset oneself like a battery powered toy; ‘Shuffle Pops’ recounts faking illness to get out of a night out turned emotional; and on ‘Secret Snares’, Harvey claims, that ‘happiness that’s more than momentary is impossible’. So far, so bleak.
However, where lesser bands could be mired in the theme of melancholy, it’s the unexpected musical quirks that elevate this record. Take for example the polyphonic group vocals that bring ‘Rene Magritte’ to a close or the dreamy synth and harmonics groove of ‘Fights, Fights’. At the same time, Harvey’s lyrics are refreshing for their frank self-deprecation, bringing to mind the confessional pop of Pinkerton-era Rivers Cuomo. For example, it’s hard not to raise a wry smile at the awkward yet acutely observed image of a man ‘nestling deep in 3 year financed furniture hoping Men and Motors preview hour’s still on’.
And despite the prevailing gloom, there is hope in there somewhere. This is perhaps best expressed on ‘Smaller Shards’, where Harvey assumes the voice of another, who offers a trip to a party and ‘a promise it’s not all bad’. After all, whilst happiness may potentially be momentary, the song suggests that the same could be said for misery. And this element of hope seems to glimmer through on ‘Presammale’, its rousing group vocals and brass bringing the whole record to a comparatively celebratory close. Having proven their ability to channel despondency into charming lo-fi pop, this ending proves a fitting silver lining to Olympians’ otherwise impressively dark cloud.