A strong and exciting debut careering headlong into the wacky world of 80s synthwave
There’s that bit in ‘Back To The Future’ where Doc and Marty first test the time travelling capabilities of the DeLorean. It speeds towards them, crackling and fizzling before disappearing in front of their eyes, while Doc screams in excitement, “I told you Marty, 88 miles per hour!”.
Gunship seem to be emulating the DeLorean as they jump fiercely onto the synthwave scene, joining in with its wacky celebrations of the soundtracks to 80s movies, TV shows and video games. Consisting of Dan Haigh, Alex Westaway and Alex Gingell, this is quite a departure from Haigh and Westaway’s usual rock outfit, Fightstar. They’ve swapped their guitars for synths and their moody, post-hardcore outlook for one that’s full of neon purples and blues.
The trio have also enlisted some first class help in the synthwave genre, most notably from John Capenter, the godfather of freaky cult classics, who lends some guest vocals. Fightstar frontman Charlie Simpson – forever to be known as Charlie from Busted – also features and there are remixes from the likes of Carpenter Brut, Makeup And Vanity Set and Miami Nights 1984.
The first track, ‘The Mountain’, sets the tone of the album and starts our journey, dark and brooding, building like the slow rumble of an engine before blasting into a crescendo of gorgeous fluorescent synths. Lyrics such as “Come close / Girl / Shiver in my arms” weave romance into the night-time car trip and this theme continues into ‘Revel In Your Time’, a groovy track with bassy arpeggios flitting in and out. The nostalgia is ripe here – it’s all very 80s disco with the girl you fancy, even getting a few “ooh-oohs” in.
“I’m recording this because this could be the last thing I ever say,” declares John Carpenter, his voice sounding pained through the scratchy radio transmission. And so the tone shifts for ‘Tech Noir’, the clear standout, a slow track that somehow manages to be both dystopian and emotional. It wouldn’t feel out of place in one of Carpenter’s own films. “It was all for love,” coos Charlie from Busted, not wanting to be outshone.
‘Shadow Fury’ and ‘Pink Mist’ are equally melancholic and yet also post-apocalyptic, but the pace quickens slightly for ‘The Hegemon’, the sonics bubbling against the wahs until it fades into silence. From there, the DeLorean speeds into ‘Fly For Your Life’, a cinematic nitro-boost with an uplifting tempo at odds with the darkness earlier on the album. As the climatic ‘Maximum Black’ rumbles in, this feels like the track we’ve been building towards. We’ve reached the end of our journey, the booming drum machines rippling up from under the erratic arpeggios, the synthesisers whining to a haunting close.
An outstanding debut, Gunship have achieved exactly what they set out to: a gripping, complex release that swirls romance, fear, hope and the nuclear apocalypse into a vivid story that keeps us dancing and grooving. Doc was happy with 88, but Gunship hit 100mph and more, leaving blazing tyre marks on the 80s synthwave scene.