Empire of the Sun: Ice on the Dune


I DON’T know. You wait years for the return of one peculiarly dressed foreign electronic pop duo bearing a blinding album, then two come along at once.
After taking five years to produce the follow-up to 2008’s million-selling Walking on a Dream, Australian duo Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore must have been more than a little peeved when Daft Punk chose the same time to return with possibly the most anticipated album of the year.
Alive, with its memorable chorus (‘Every time I see you it just makes me feel so alive’) could have been the tune that soundtracked the summer too, had not those pesky French disco revivalists got there first with Get Lucky.
Some may suggest that Random Access Memories has rendered Ice on the Dune obsolete; it’s unlikely that two returning guitar bands would be greeted in the same fashion.
The fact is, although RAM and Ice on the Dune share similar traits, they are remarkably different records and EOTS’ is arguably the more enjoyable.
Just as lists of ‘greatest albums of all time’ are often dominated by long players which are indisputably brilliant but infrequently played, so Daft Punk’s effort may well top more end-of-year lists while EOTS’ wins more mass appeal.
Lead single Alive you already know; lovers of its arms in the air groove are directed to the immediately preceding DNA, which is arguably even better than the single and will be filling dancefloors from Sydney to Singapore by the time you read this, and the penultimate Disarm.
Like all the very best pop music, both songs work as dance but place melody very much in the driving seat, marrying singalongability to sounds that are firmly of 2013.
They are capable of more than upbeat floor fillers, though, going straight for the gut on I’ll be Around and big closer Keep a Watch, both of which have that loved up feeling redolent of New Order or Hot Chip at their absolute best.
Ice on the Dune is an album you immediately want to hear again, and is positively full of delight. A joy.


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